Victorian Bonnet

It all started when Jo-Anne Rolfe stumbled across a vintage hat pattern. Inspired by the one pattern, her hat making has now grown into her business Vintage Hat Designs. Here, Jo-Anne picks four vintage hat styles for spring.

Jo-Anne focuses on vintage techniques  – flat pattern construction, different millinery stitches, learning how hats were designed and pieced together a hundred years ago – using as many traditional materials as possible.

However, some of those traditional materials are very hard to find and may not even exist anymore, so she has to find other things that can do the job and there are some good substitutes available these days.

And it shows, her hats truly have a vintage feel. “Hats are such a personal thing.” Jo-Anne says. “They sit on your head, they’re close to your face, you can see them when you look in the mirror and they make you stand up straight. Hats make you think about other things; things in the future or things full of promise. They have this magical quality to them, which is amazing. It’s just fun to watch people put on a Vintage Designs hat, look in the mirror and stand up straight.” To get you into the spirit of wearing (more) hats, here are four vintage hat designs – as picked by Jo-Anne – that would work well with a spring look.

1870’s Victorian Bonnet

Technically antique rather than vintage, the Victorian bonnet is based on a traditional flat pattern construction using a foundation of black sinamay with separate back bandeau, wired and overlaid with hand stitched straw braid. It has a vintage green and black satin overlay with “points”, tulle ruffles and hand-fashioned “star flower” bouquet as well as a batwing bow.

To be worn on the top of the head in the traditional Victorian manner.

Making a Victorian bonnet is a fairly lengthy process and you need to plan what you are doing. That’s not the creative side either, bunatural straw clochet rather all the constructive processes. Making everything from scratch takes a very long time. Creating foundations, tooling all the flowers, constructing the design, hand stitching everything together and getting all those elements working together. Most of the time, I know if I take a lot of care with what I’m doing and have a specific design in mind, the end result is going to be something beautiful.

Thirties Natural Straw Cloche

Natural parisisal straw with a slanted brim. This piece is trimmed with wired taffeta ribbon and a curled pheasant feather. The natural straw hood has been blocked as two separate pieces and rejoined at the head size in the traditional manner of hand stitching.

The brim edge was wired and hand rolled, following the line of the slant of the brim which was created during the blocking process.

Open Crown Turopen crown turbanban

Beautiful, open crown draped turban in pink, ivory and grey satin with a ruffle rose, pink buds, pearl and tulle trim.

This was made using a blocked foundation which was then cut to shape, wired and covered in a base fabric. Bias strips of satin were interwoven with embroidered tulle and pearl trim. Bias strips of pink satin were cut to create the ruffle rose which was hand fashioned with pink buds and pearl drops.

Red Velvet Demi

Late Fifties Red velvet bandeau demi headpiece with Thirties black velvet rosettes. Constructed using a blocked foundation, in this case sinamay, which is then measured and cut to a bandeau shape according to headsize.

This piece was made using traditional methods of stitching and wiring, mulling and covering with fabric.

The ribbon rosettes are a very traditional trim, all hand gathered, detailed, composed and stitched to a foundation before attaching to the hat. The simple but versatile veiling can be lifted or lowered as desired.

Although from different eras, all are beautiful examples of spring hats, from Victorian to the end of the Fifties.

Extremely versatile, these pieces are traditional designs which cover all the bases. Simple lines for everyday wear, with traditional styling for retro pinups or highly detailed for race wear.


red velvet demi