Regency Shako

Ok, so I have a lot of catching up to do on here! Between finishing up my PhD and then an international move, there hasn’t been much time for blogging over the past few months. But I have been sewing during a lot of this “away” time. I made a natural form era summer suit, a vintage mash-up summer suit for my thesis defense, and three new dresses over the past 2-3 weeks. I’m also in the middle of a white cotton regency gown to wear with the blue silk spencer.

Today, I present a project I made for a Historical Sew Monthly challenge back in the spring: War & Peace. I did get it done and posted to the fb challenge album in by the challenge deadline, but never got around to blogging it. In the interest of catching up, this is going to be short and sweet, but I hope will still be worth your taking a look.

I hummed and hawed about what to do for War & Peace for some time trying to figure out what to do. Then I remembered those smart military-inspired hats women wore during the Napoleonic wars – feminized versions of the Shako hat/cap:


However, I didn’t want to be so literal about it, and I also came across this image and totally fell in love with this hat, despite it being a modern costume piece:

HAT LOVE - Claire Skinner, Fanny Dashwood - Sense & Sensibility directed by John Alexander (TV Mini-Series, BBC, 2008) #janeausten

This is the character Fanny Dashwood from the 2008 BBC Sense & Sensibility. And it’s totally true what they say on Frock Flicks: the Austen mean girls get the best costumes! I mean, THAT HAT.

So I constructed a similar-looking form out of buckram and hat wire and started playing with some scraps of the olive-coloured fabrics left over from the Natural Form Tea gown (hooray for finding uses for scraps!). I draped a diagonally pleated cover for the crown, but before actually stitching it down did some digging for historical precedents to make sure I wasn’t going too far off the mark in terms of HA.

Low and behold, I found this plate on Pinterest, and it’s even green!

1812 M5053MA_214X02X00001_L_3 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

My version is sort of a mash-up of the S&S costume piece and the example in the fashion plate.

Although I didn’t manage a series of in-process photos I made sure to get one showing the cotton flannelette I used to cover the buckram frame (to pad it slightly). BANANA FLANNEL. Go on, say it out loud and see if you don’t end up with a smile on your face. I’ve had this fabric for FOREVER, as in, about 15 years. There was a set of pajama bottoms made of it at some point for someone, and I have enough for possibly another pair along with scraps of various sizes. Hooray for more scrap-usage!


And with no further preamble, here’s my finished Shako:


The main fabric is a cotton/silk blend sateen; the binding, cockade base and piping is pale celadon silk taffeta; the cockade inner is silk chiffon; the crown is lined with a scrap of white linen. The feather is ostrich, which I curled simply by wrapping it around a fat highlighter marker – I didn’t think it would work, it proved me wrong. So everything came from stash, mostly scraps, which makes me very happy. It’s entirely hand-sewn, which I find so much easier with millinery than trying to do any of it by machine.


Here it is with the blue silk spencer. I intend to wear them together, really liking the contrast between the olive and the pale blue. It actually looks better than this, the spencer is too highlighted in this photo.


So, because I’ve gone about this outfit kind of backwards I have no dress to wear these with just yet, it’s the white cotton gown that’s in-progress. Here’s hoping I can get it and a photoshoot of everything together before winter comes!

14 thoughts on “Regency Shako

  1. I spent part of my summer taking a hat making class, and indeed, it’s easier to handsew it than try to manuever around the machine (so wish the Singer 25 had worked out). But my hat is NOTHING like yours. You’re inspiration incarnate!


    • Oh my, thank you! And I’ve certainly had my trials, tribulations and outright failures in both hat making and dressmaking over the years!


  2. Shakos, must be something in the air. My Hungarian neighbour mentioned the other day that shako was the word for hat in Hungarian. I agree about those Austen costumes – I’d do some pretty serious mayhem to have a hat like hers or yours. Huzzah!


    • Thank you, I think the pleating is my favourite part too – and what took the longest amount of time to sort out! I can’t recall how many times I pinned-undid-re-pinned it all.


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