Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Regency Lady's Turban

Turbans are wonderful things. They are good for day wear and evening wear, they allow for a variety of hairstyles, and your options for decoration and embellishment are endless. Turbans are the salvation for short-haired ladies, who need only style and curl the hair around their face (comb forward like a man’s hair, or curl into ringlets) and then add your turban to cover the back. It is also a very elegant, patrician sort of look.

I recommend that you use silk or silk-like fabrics for your turban. Try to stick to natural, not-too-shiny or slinky synthetic fabrics (that should be a rule of thumb with pretty much ALL historic costume creation; synthetics may look pretty at the store, but once their sewn, they kind of get ugly; especially when photographed). Anyway, I digress…

I have put together a little set of basic instructions on how to create a turban in three general styles; and using these construction methods, your options are limitless. I’ve given each style its own moniker (these are not official, these are my own titles).

1. The wrapped turban.

2. There is the cap turban (it’s more of a soft hat than a turban).

3. There is the rope turban (which is a form of the wrapped turban).

Creating each one of these individually requires some different approaches.

1. The wrapped turban.

One can easily wrap a turban on the head each time you want to wear it, and when you take it off, it will unravel into the long rectangle of fabric each time. I have an example of a wrapped turban below where the tail of the turban falls from the knot. It’s a simple design that can be used with a nice long rectangle of fabric. It’s a turban that would work nicely with a casual day dress or walking dress, and would be very nice if the ends of the turban are embellished with a fringe or teeny tassels. The one pictured above is a single wide wrap, but you can go with a longer, narrower piece of fabric and wrap it around multiple times while occasionally twisting the fabric, and then knotting or tucking if need be.

(Update: 11/2011) Miss Lauren Reeser aka 'The American Duchess' has provided a wonderful video on how to do a simple wrapped turban using a scarf or any kind of fabric.  You can view the video here:

In order to create a wrapped turban that doesn’t require constant rebuilding, you can wrap one and then fix it in place. Carefully wrap your turban around a head form, arranging and ruching (bunching) the fabric to your linking. As you go along, tack-stitch it in place—creating a hat shape as you go. That way you can just put it on and take it off with little worry of it unraveling on you. A great advantage of doing it as a stitched, permanent headpiece is that you can add tassels, lace in strings of beads, ribbons and whatnot as you stitch it down, to give it interest and dimension. It’s the simplest of projects, and it makes for a very attractive turban. You can also add a medallion with either game-bird feathers arcing across the front for a day-wear turban, or you can add a big froofy ostrich feather across the front, side or coming up from the back for evening. See the links provided below for fashion-plate examples from that time period.

2. The cap turban (also known as a capote or beret).

This turban is a sewed fabric hat, however the mushroomed fabric makes it very turban like and it also has the same versatility as day and evening wear depending on embellishments and fabric choices.

You start with a large circle. As with most first-time sewing projects, I recommend you create some cheap muslin mock-ups that when successful, can have the baste-stitches removed and used as a pattern later. Joanne Fabrics pretty much always has very cheap muslin ($2 - $3 a yard)… it’s good to always have some on hand for projects like these.

(click image to enlarge)
The diameter of your circle depends on how ‘fluffy’ you want your capote… I’d say, and this is just a wild guess, start with 20”. You can always trim the bottom edge down once you’ve done your gathering if it’s too poofy.

Sew a wide baste stitch all around the edge, and then when you’ve sewn the circuit, clip your thread, and start again slightly above the first set of stitches. Try and match the stitches below, and go around again parallel to the first set of stitches. Then you will gently pull your threads on one side and gather up your edges of the circle. You can then affix the gather once you get that desired circumference with a nice tight stitch all around the edge with your sewing machine (or by hand if you’re a purist).

You will then create a band. Cut it twice as wide as your desired width, and then fold, sew the long edge closed, turn inside out, and iron flat. You now have an inner surface to which you can stitch your capote without revealing the stitches on the facing side.

There you have it. The addition of tassels, feathers and medallions, whatever you like will make it work very nicely.

3. The rope turban
(click image to enlarge)

This turban can stand alone, or serve as an enhancement for the above turbans. The premise is to take two (or even three) fabrics, or perhaps fabric and a string of beads or ribbon, and to twist-fold them into a rope (or plait them as well). You can create a circlet or open-topped turban so your updo can cascade out the top, or you can make one or two and sew it to a closed-top turban (as seen in my drawings below). It’s a simple style, you can either hide the ends by sewing them together, or let the long end drape down the back or the side onto the shoulder.

Making two or three of the ropes and stacking them on top of a capote is also a fine option, and don’t forget to use embellishments. Beads, tassels, ribbon, trim, medallions and feathers are all acceptable decorations for your Regency turban. I recommend you check out the links provided below. You will see for yourself how elaborate these turbans can seem but really how simple they are to make. Let the images inspire your own project. Happy turban-making!

Sometimes a loose, narrow, long bandeau with beads wrapped around it also works very nicely for evening wear... it's sort of a turban, so I thought I'd throw this drawing in. :)
Some inspiration:


Else M Tennessen said...

This looks easy and so helpful! Thank you! I am going to make one for my regency costume.

BetterDressesVintage said...

Clear, concise, and extremely helpful. I was a bit (OK, very) intimidated by other turban-making tutorials, but this makes it seem entirely doable. Can't wait to give it a try! Thanks so much.

Iris Startup said...

Many thanks for the inspiration. I have cut out a large round circle, as you advised, but am taking a "short cut" by using the crown of an old sunhat as a base. I've cut off the rim am just going to sew the floppy material to it, which gives a firmer hold - I am going to dance in my costume on Saturday.

Decor To Adore said...

Hello, I love the blue cap and wrapped turban image that is second to the last in the article. However, all three links that are provided are broken. Is it possible to get an updated, working link? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Please can you post instructions for the blue cap as the links are broken? Thank you

HerOdyssey said...

The blue cap is the same as the cap/beret posted above. She merely added a like extra fabric to the band to give it interest.