Monthly Archives: April 2012

La Mode Illustree 1912 Spring Hat – Small Scale Mock-Up.

This Spring Hat pattern is my first from Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s ” VPLL1912 Titanic Sewing Project”. 

Slightly put off by the full name “Spring Hat for Mature Women”, I became interested in the hat after viewing its interior armature at a post by Lion de Fleur, another VPLL1912 participant – who wrote an informative tutorial with photos of the millinery process.  Having only created dressmaker-style (sewn) hats, I was eager to try making a hat with one of these wire skeletons.

Heeding Lion de Fleur’s warning, I knew the instructions were minimal and would not produce results exactly like the accompanying illustration.  I decided to enjoy freedom in the construction process.  The horizontal ruching/pleating didn’t appeal to me at all… as I am already noticing some life-induced pleating in my own face.  Vertical lines and upward-moving details seemed like a good idea.  The bird’s wings in the illustration were very beautiful.  I would eventually like to produce a hat having that effect.  These things in mind, I began building the hat armature – very glad to have seen Lion de Fleur’s innovations.

The blue painter’s masking tape always comes in handy when joining paper patterns for toiles and it was useful here for securing the wire intersections of the hat frame.  Lion de Fleur mentioned using 19 gauge millinery wire for the armature, but without immediate access to that – I used 26 gauge floral wire.  Little jewelry pliers/cutters worked fine with the floral wire, but might not be appropriate for millinery wire.

The floral wire was very flimsy – even for this small mockup – so I doubled it.  The photos above show the inner structure of the hat.  In viewing the next photo, you’ll see I’ve color-coded the inner (pink) and outer (black) structures of the hat.  The inner frame sits on the head and serves as support for the outer (styled) structure.  In the photo above this paragraph, please note the upper two rings actually touch the head, whereas the lower ring is more of a shade or brim (and because I wanted even more brim, I added the crescent-shaped bit at the lower front).

I liked the idea of a forward-tipping hat front portion, so I modified my mock-up.  Building a hat in this way is much like architecture with its joists, beams, girders, and struts.  My goal was to achieve a desirable form with minimal effort.  Still, I had to make changes.  At one point, I realized the center back of the outer structure was too short.  I wanted the back of the hat to sit higher than the front – yielding a more aerodynamic look.  It wasn’t easy to make the change though, because my wire-wrappings were so secure.  It was easier to snip the wire and create a  tall splint  – using a matchstick.

After building the hat frame, it was time to experiment with a fabric covering.  Even though they had been translated from the original French, the La Mode Illustree instructions were very vague – mentioning two bias-cut draped triangles, but offering no diagram for their construction or arrangement (other than the main illustration you saw at the top of this post).

For the hat toile, I used spunbonded polyester tracing material (or Swedish tracing paper) – making it easy to create a pattern, as I could see the armature through this semi-transparent material.  Without spending too much time on this hat practice – I cut a rough-draft crown, side band, and brim.  A wearable hat would also need a lining.  Though the mini-version is ugly, I was very happy with this experience and learned enough to construct a larger wire-frame hat in the future.  During the process, I had ideas about materials (perhaps using changeable or shot silk… even transparent organdy – like the bonnets of Bright Star) and about ways to create a more flattering outer structure – even wondering how a higher front might look.

I’m glad I worked in small scale, didn’t purchase supplies without experimenting first, and didn’t have a deadline.

Notice my good luck employee bathing her face in the background.  A bumblebee stung her on the nose during her early morning outing (which she has with me – attached to a leash on the other end).

Above, you’ll see the pattern pieces – the completed hat armature, and notice that Hattie’s head has an approximate 10-inch circumference.  So now, if you scroll up to the third photo down (showing the armature in side-view), you will know that the second ring – sitting above Hattie’s ears – is approximately 10-inches.  That will give you some idea of the scale I used.  To give you an overview of this Vintage Pattern Lending Library “Spring Hat” pattern, I have included the following checklists:

Vintage Pattern Lending Library Checklist:

1. Pattern Name:  Spring Hat for Mature Women – La Mode Illustree

2. My Skill Level:  Experienced/Intermediate

3. Pattern Rating:  So-So… Why?  Directions were inadequate, though inspiring. 

4. What Skill Level would someone need to sew this pattern?  Essentially, the hat could be constructed by someone who has proficient 3-Dimensional Thinking.   The fabric and adornment could be executed via hand-stitching, pins, or – even hot glue.

5. Were Instructions Easy to Follow? No.  I learned more from reading Lion de Fleur’s “My Take on Mature Ladies Spring Hat” post.  However, the La Mode Illustre color and fabric suggestions were interesting:  velvet, crinol or straw braid, taffeta, lace, dotted tulle, ostrich or osprey feathers, sage green, brown, dark purple, navy, black.

6. Fit/Sizing:  The head entry circumference listed is 20.5-inches or 52-centimeters, but I would be using my own head measurement.  Since the directions are very minimal, a milliner/modiste would need to improvise quite a bit.

7.  Necessary Alterations:  As posted above, I did make both fit and design adjustments to the pattern/directions… mostly referring to them as inspiration.

Pattern Review Checklist:

1. Pattern Description:  Spring Hat descriptions and armature diagram.

2. Pattern Sizing:  Measurements are intended to fit a head circumference of 20.5-inches or 52-centimeters.  I only constructed a small scale practice – so I’m unsure of pattern accuracy.

3.  Did finished product look like the pattern illustration?  No.  I produced an altered version of the pattern (and several participants have agreed the pattern’s illustration and diagram do not correspond).

4.  Were the Instructions easy to follow?  The most useful part of the instructions were these words: “First, a form must be created”… . The armature diagram was fairly useful too.

5.  Pattern Feature Likes/Dislikes:  I liked the concept of creating a hat using a wire skeleton.  I disliked the vague instructions and lack of fabric-cutting/assembly diagrams.

6.  Fabric Used:  Fabric Tracing Material over Floral Wire.

7.  Pattern Design Changes:  Higher Center Back, Added Brim.

8.  Would I recommend this Pattern?  Yes.  I would recommend this pattern to patient people interested in reconstructing vintage millinery.

Conclusion:   Though I’ve seen this technique in vintage millinery books, I’d never attempted using a wire armature in a hat – but was encouraged after seeing Lion de Fleur’s post at the VPLL1912 website (in the “hats” drop-down under the “Ladies” toolbar heading).  It was fun to exercise my 3-Dimensional train-of-thought and I did enjoy the sculptural aspect of this project.

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Edwardian Magazine Ephemera: 1912.

Edwardian blouse image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian blouse image, scanned by Toile La La.

In addition to these beautifully-rendered illustrations of an Edwardian shirtwaist and a Ladies Home Journal blouse-embroidery transfer pattern, you can see others at my Toile La La blog: . Look for additional images soon. If you are participating in Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s Titanic Project, these might give you insight and inspiration for your sewing project!

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Edwardian Grooming, and Mode.

Collector of vintage magazines, my father is my own personal librarian and archivist. Learning about my participation in Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s Titanic Project, he sorted his way through stacks, files, racks, and boxes of magazines from around the time of the Titanic’s sailing.

Life, Country Life in America, The Housewife, and The Rural Home – as well as Travel magazines – were in a box he loaned me for my scanning project. Now that I’m excited about sewing fashions from La Mode Illustree, I’m inquisitive about the first part of the twentieth century. Photos and articles from 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914 were especially interesting. Here are just a few – until I have time to add more… :

Edwardian advertisement, scanned by Toile La La.

Egyptian Deities Cigarette Ad image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardain Gimbel Ad image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian Standard plumbing ad image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian Paris Turban image, scanned by Toile La La.

Being unfamiliar with a “hair receiver”, I had to perform research:  Inside receptacles like the one below, women of the Victorian and Edwardian era saved culled hair from brushes and combs to pack inside pincushions, pillows, or even their own hairstyles – to create volume and height.

Edwardian Parisian hair receivers image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian British Haberdashery ad image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian Banner Tailoring ad image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian Ladies Shirt-Waist image, scanned by Toile La La.

Edwardian Dresses and Hats Image, scanned by Toile La La.

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Edwardian Cruise Advertisement.

cruise ad

Edwardian Southern Pacific Steamships cruise ad, scanned by Toile La La.

Country Life in America cruise advertisement.

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Modern Interpretations of Vintage Patterns – VPLL1912 Project: Sewing La Mode Illustree.

Part of what makes recreating a vintage pattern interesting is giving it your own spin. Visit to see patterns from La Mode Illustree 1912 – a leading French fashion magazine of the Belle Epoque/Edwardian era, then view the available patterns – where you’ll see comments and postings from modern modistes/seamstresses/tailors and their creative reproductions of the vintage garments.

VPLL, The Vintage Pattern Lending Library, is hosting the 1912 La Mode Illustree sewing project in recognition of the Titanic Centenary.

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