A first try at the middle-class horny hat

by Cynthia du Pré Argent

© 2000 Cynthia Virtue

CV and the Original

For camping events, I wanted to have a few outfits that weren't clearly "court" costume, so I turned to the rich merchant class of the 15th century, who were gaining increasing prominence and wealth, yet had not quite gotten to the excesses of clothing of the true nobility.

One of the hats that has long fascinated me is the linen horned headress of this group; it clearly is meant to echo the "fashionable" line of the nobles, with out being, dare I say it, so "over the top."  Like all the other hats of this time period, we have absolutely Zilch surviving examples, so we must go on theory and conjecture. (As I have for the upper class hats that you can read about elsewhere on my site.)

For my first attempt, I decided to start with a buckram base.  This results in a good look, although, as you'll see below, it's not perfect.  I'm still working on the idea for something more accurate.

To arrive at the first decent version (what you see here is the Mark II) I used heavy kraft paper, repeatedly cutting and taping it until I had the right angle.  Once I had the shape, I cut it out in two layers of buckram, stitched together when flat for more strength, and then stitched it together in the two-horned "bonnet."  It was then given a covering of white cotton muslin inside and out, and the edge was trimmed.  Here is a rough diagram of the shape.

This pattern, although it give a very good look, is still not quite right.

  1. Fabric. The top veil should be of a thinner material, but this is what I had.  The store has a cotton/poly voile that is approximately the right translucency; I may get some of that and try it.
  2. Fit.  The center back line on the sketch, I am now convinced, should be a seam, and a seam that curves outward.  As it is, the hat tries to creep back on my head during the day.
  3. Shape.  You'll notice that the original was less of a cone and more of a "breast" shape.  My husband the math-boy, says that the shape I mean is called a paraboloid, but that's rather an obscure term.  You can think of it as "half of a football" if you wish.
Below is illustrated, as best I can in two dimensions, the difference between a cone and a paraboloid, and the somewhat different effect each has when turned into a hat.

cone and paraboloid 

The houppelande I wear with it is a fine wool garbadine; it was very comfortable, even in the 80+ heat last weekend (July) and the humidity. Unlike the noble houps I have, it only goes down to the ground, or maybe 1" longer, rather than about a foot longer!  Under it I wore a linen kirtle and a linen shift.  Here's a picture of a plump lady wearing a houppelande. I'm not sure if they're lower nobility or upper middle class.
All material © 1999-2000 Cynthia Virtue Email Author with comments
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