Sunday, 7 July 2013

Purple & Black Cap c. 1907

The weather is exceedingly unpleasant today. It is rather difficult to write blog posts when the air in the basement is nice and cool and the computer is upstairs where it's hot and humid. I recently finished my Eastern Influence challenge though, so here is a post about it.

This was my inspiration picture.
Orientalist caps c. 1907 (source)
They were sold on an auction site several years ago and thankfully the page is still up. Unfortunately there was only one picture. (Who would buy an antique article of clothing with only one picture to go on?) It appears to be one of those vaguely eastern inspired designs from the silent film era, when everything was covered in fringe, tassels, and beads.

They remind me quite a lot of Poiret. There is a similarly shaped cap with his name attached to it but it's colours and texture are bizarre.
Poiret's "Oriental Inspired Collection" 1910. (source)
My cap is a purple version of the blue one. I made my pattern by cutting a piece of the lining fabric to the correct width and twisting it around my head like the wrapper on a hard candy. I don't know what sort of hairstyle would have been worn under these caps, but I don't think it was one with any hair sticking out. I made mine to fit over a flat, braided bun.
The wider part is the front.
The lining is white rayon and the outer fabric is poly satin from an old coat lining. One of the coat seams ended up across the back of the cap because the coat pieces weren't quite big enough.
I stitched the two flat ends up by machine and gathered the sides with hand basting stitches.

The original is lined in black. I hand stitched a black ribbon across the forehead so that the white lining in mine wouldn't be so glaringly obvious. I don't know why I didn't just line it in black in the first place.
 Since there are no close ups of the original cap I can't tell exactly what the medallions are made of. They look like spirals of black and blue piping, so piping is what I used. I cut 3/4 inch strips off the corner of a piece of purple silk and a piece of black linen.
 I pieced them together (4 pieces in each purple strip and 2 for each linen one) and sewed them around hemp cord with a zipper foot.
I  love this zipper foot. It's adjustable, which is very useful when the needle of your sewing machine doesn't move.
 There is a black length of piping and a purple one for each medallion, which I stitched into a big spiral.
 It wasn't until I started the second spiral that I realized I could sew it together much more securely if I stitched through 3 cords to attach 2.
Sewing spirals securely. I was a bit worried that I would break a needle, but I didn't.
The second spiral came out much nicer than the first. The first was kind of shifty and you could see light through it, while the second was sewn together very firmly and was coiled a bit tighter.
The first is on the left, the second is on the right. The difference doesn't show up very well in the photographs.
 I picked the first one apart and sewed it up again. Now both are of equal quality.
For the spaniel ear tassels I used fine black cotton yarn, and a tiny bit of purple silk.

 I wrapped it around and around a small hardcover book, piling up the yarn in 10 sections so I that could do all the tassels at once.
The book covers stuck out quite a bit further than the pages, which made this book ideal for tassels. I tied their little tassel heads off with very long pieces of yarn. I was left with four pieces of yarn on the top of each tassel. I twisted them in pairs very far in the backwards direction and let them twist back together into a fatter 2 ply yarn.
Each tassel rope has 2 beads on it. They were extremely difficult to thread on, but they don't need knots under them to keep them from moving.
5 finished tassels.
The beads on the original look like lumps covered with thread, but I don't know how those were made.
Here they are attached to the ear-medallions.
I'm glad I remembered to make them spiral in opposite directions.
 It took a lot of pinning, stitching, unpicking, basting, stitching, more unpicking, and restitching(in that order) before the gathers were arranged nicely.
Finally! everything is sewn in the right place.
 I sewed a circle of the black linen over the back of each ear-medallion.
 And it was finished!

I am very tired.

 The Challenge: #14, Eastern Influence

Fabric: A piece of white rayon, a piece from a purple poly satin coat lining. I don't know the exact surface area of the fabric I used.

Pattern: Made by twisting the lining around my head.

Year: The auction site said c. 1907 but that seems a bit early to me. Does anybody know if this may be from a later date?

Notions: 37 cm of black poly satin ribbon, 5.16 m of hemp cord (4 lengths of 1.29 m), 20 small black glass beads, enough fine black cotton yarn (and a little purple silk) to completely obscure the cover of The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport.

How historically accurate is it: The construction is probably not too bad. The look is mostly accurate but my polyester fabric is bubbly looking compared to the drapey silk of the original. Aside from the glass beads and the tiny bits of purple silk in the tassels and the medallions my materials are all wrong. Linen certainly existed but it would not be found in a cap like this.

Hours to complete: 22 hours and 9 minutes, including the several hours spent locating all the materials.

First worn: July 5th, but only for a few minutes.

Total cost: $0. Everything was stash stuff.

Some day I would like to make a dress to wear with this cap, but I can't afford new fabric at the moment. I might wear it around the house to keep my head warm once the horrible summer weather has passed. I can't wait until the sky clouds up and the weather goes back to being nice and cold and dreary.


  1. Do you have fans to circulate the air so it's not as sticky in this heat. It may help a bit.

    Your Oriental cap looks great. Those tassels and the spiral discs are just awesome, very impressive how you can just whip up something out of all those scraps of material. Excellent work.


  2. That is a really wonderful recreation! You went to a lot of effort for those trim ornaments.

    1. Thank you! I was quite astonished at how many hours it ended up taking. All the unpicking added quite a bit to the time.

  3. That hat is just gorgeous! I can believe it's from 1907 though. It seems like a good year between the high classy Edwardian and the more frivolous teens fashions. Plus, it's rather art nouveau, just check out the similarities the spiral placement has to the headpieces on Mucha's work (this piece c. 1899)

    1. Thank you!
      The cap does have a sort of art noveau look to it, I hadn't noticed that before.
      Do you know where those caps might have been worn? They don't seem like something that a lady would walk around a city in, but I don't think they are fancy dress either. I'm not sure when or where it would have been appropriate to wear one.
      I definitely need to do more research.
      Thanks for the link!

  4. Oh my god. This is the awesomest cap ever. You did a really beautiful job copying all the details of the original cap.

    1. Thank you!
      I still wish the auction site had included some close ups. The thread-lump beads are very puzzling.

  5. The cap is lovely, and to create something so close to the original with only one photograph to work from is seriously impressive.

    I can well believe that the ornaments took so long - there is a lot of fiddly work in them.

    The third picture down in this post ( shows a Poiret model wearing something quite similar.

    1. Thank you! The third picture in that post is actually a close up from the second picture in this post. It's kind of hard to see because I couldn't find a bigger version of the whole picture. It does look very similar though.