Friday, 4 May 2012

Guest Post: A Royal DIY

Hi! I am Geneviève, a Quebecoise archaeologist currently based in Chicago where I study the material history of taste, hospitality and food in the British Empire. As such, I am obsessed with design, manufacturing processes and everything that touches the aesthetic of everyday objects.

I also love making things. And today, we are going to make fascinators! Fascinators are diminutive hats made famous in the 1940s and 1950s, but that find their origin in eighteenth century wig toppers. The lovely chapeaux are currently finding their way back into our wardrobe, no doubt thanks to the double influence of Madmen’s costume design crew and the ever-elegant Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

Image via

I absolutely adore fascinators: they are elegant, whimsical, and overall more manageable and versatile than hats. The following tutorial is inspired by a fascinator I made for a dear friend's wedding in Oxford a few weeks back (Warmest congratulations to Emily and Andrew!). It sounds like a lot of work, but it is actually quite straightforward.

To make a simple fascinator, you will need:

·       A base -- I used a ready-made round straw base but you can substitute any material that is stiff enough to holds its shape under the trimmings, like plastic, foam or even cardboard, in any shape you like.
·       Trimmings -- ribbons, feathers, flowers... I used 50cm of sinamay ribbon (a kind of stiff woven straw) and 50cm of wide nylon ribbon; wired ribbon would also work well.
·       A means of fastening your fascinator -- I personally like the polished look of concealed combs, but you could also use clips or a headband.
·       Heavy thread and needle or glue

(Step 1) Sew the comb to the base.

Check that your stitches are loose enough to allow the comb to move slightly outward when gripping your hair, otherwise it will bend the fascinator out of shape when you wear it. If sewing is not your cup of tea, you can buy fascinator bases with the comb already attached, or glue your base to a headband.

(Step 2) Add trimmings to the base.

I strongly suggest pinning the item in place and trying on before sewing or gluing your trimmings in place permanently: that way, you can see whether you like the way the fascinator looks or whether you want to make some adjustments. Keep track of the location of the comb (or headband) as you assemble your delightful head topper. The comb has to sink into your hair teeth-down to be fastened securely, and this determines how your fascinator sits on your head. For my fascinator, I was inspired by Kate Middleton's iconic Epsom Derby look; I wanted something understated but still worthy of an English wedding, so I simply shaped the ribbons into loose loops.

(Step 3) Stitch or glue the trimmings in place.

Voilà! Easy peasy.

What do you think? Have you included a fascinator or two in your wardrobe rotation lately?


  1. I love this idea! It looks manageable even for someone with limited manual abilities (read:me!) I hope you're enjoying your time in London, Geneviève!

  2. You have a very beautiful blog with a lot of inspiring posts! I'd like to invite you to be my friend and follow each other:)

    1. Thank you so much, Laura! Love that positive feedback! My new post is for you! :) I'd certainly love to have you as a follower - in fact, I'm off to check out your blog RIGHT NOW!
      Happy weekend, Emily

  3. Love this DIY Emily. Should the occasion present itself will gladly give a try! XO Danina