Monday, April 8, 2013

Gibson Girl Hair Accessory

For Challenge #7 of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, I made a small and simple hair accessory to wear with my upcoming Gibson Girl evening gown. I have been hard at work sewing the dress and have made a lot of progress (I'll post some updates very soon). All the sewing time I've had lately has been dedicated to that epic undertaking, which is why I haven't been blogging much lately, and why I didn't complete a project for Challenge #6 (I have several striped garments in planning stages, but just didn't have time to work on any of them this month). Taking a break from garment construction to whip up this accessory was a welcome break.

The window of time I am focusing on for this project is the years right around the turn of the century, 1899 to about 1903. If you spend as much time looking at fashion plates from that period as I have, you will notice that the increasingly voluminous hairstyles are often accompanied by sprays of feathers, flowers, and/or perky ribbon bows.

Here are some examples:

The lady on the right has a spray of black plumage on her head.

Get past her giant chest bow for a minute, and see the arrangement of ribbon loops in her hair.

Her plumage is quite impressive.

I just love the jaunty black bow. 

And here's my version (modelled on my most recent attempt at giant Gibson Girl hair):

The ribbon bow, which seemed pretty big when I made it, is dwarfed in comparison with my bouffant updo.

A side view 

And the hair accessory on its own. 

Making it was more complicated than you might think. The feathers are small clusters of fronds that I stripped from an ostrich drab. I bound them together clump by clump, wrapping their bases in thread as I went. I then constructed the bow from black velvet ribbon, and attached the feather spray to the back of the bow. I didn't add anything to affix it to my hair, but simply anchored it in my bun with a long hairpin. 

The details:

The Challenge: #7 — Accessorize

Fabric: None

Pattern: None, just improvised

Year: ca 1900

Notions: 1 black ostrich drab, 1/2 yd. 2" wide black velvet ribbon, black polyester thread

How historically accurate is it? I don't have any historical examples to compare it with, but the techniques I used are compatible with period millinery. 

Hours to complete: 1 hour (not counting the updo!)

First worn: Will be worn April 27 at the Gaskell Ball

Total cost: about $6


  1. Wow! That is really neat! Now I want one. :)


  2. Oh, this is so nice, Nat. I wish we could wear feathers in our hair all the time. Mom

  3. Thank you for all this research and detail! I'm costuming a production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music and your help is invaluable!