Tintype…. Finally

One would think I would have gotten around to having my image struck at some point in the past 30-some years. It is, after all, one of those things reenactors and living historians do. They have sit for period photos in their period attire.

Me? Not so much.

I need to clarify…. Back in the 90s, I did stand for images take during a PR shoot at the museum. I posed with a coworker on the steps of Altay, if I recall correctly. I have no idea where those images ended up. I’ve wanted one of my own ever since.

Two weekends ago, the weekend I did the dolls as fancy work presentation, I learned Dave, a wet-plate photographer of Victorian Photography Studio, was on site doing photos for staff. Better yet, he would be back the next weekend for the Civil War living history event. I was determined I would finally go to get my tintype done.


Saturday morning rolls around, and it was raining. Rain means clouds. Clouds mean dark. I wasn’t sure if photographs would even be possible. We did a few test shots. The first (left) came out spooky dark. The second (center) came out better, but with notable shadows.

I actually really like the test shots because they remind me of a particular photo Dad took of me when I was little. It, too, has a spooky vibe in a way.

Sunday morning was much nicer and brighter. Sadly, I wasn’t able to wear my wool challis dress as I had before because the skirt was still wet.

This time, I posed on the steps of MacArthur. For those who don’t know, this was one of the houses Grandma used to interpret in and the last house she worked in before getting ill. A large photo of her standing on these same steps hangs on my wall. That made this posing particularly meaningful. (right) This one will be going up on the wall near Grandma’s photo.

I am happy I finally decided to get my image done. I do regret not finding the time and funds to do it earlier and multiple times.

For those interested in how dress colors photograph with period techniques, Saturday’s dress is a wool challis in a large scale plaid with white, red, and grey. The grey is blue hued, and read white in the image. Sunday’s dress is a cotton polychrome shirting that reads dark and predominantly red to the eye. The secondary colors are blues and greens, which read light in the image.

Published in: on May 22, 2023 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Millinery in May

For the first time in years, I took a personal day for personal enjoyment. This allowed me to go to the museum Friday morning to set up the millinery shop prior to opening. It also meant, I was their as students arrived for their field trips. I miss field trip days. These kids and teachers did too. It was nice to see such happy and excited faces bouncing around the village.

A look around the shop via Instagram Reel.

Saturday morning was a surprise turn for me. When I checked the weather app Friday morning, it said 10% chance of rain. Saturday morning, it said 90%. I grabbed my umbrella. I should have opted for a not sheer dress or grabbed my coat. It pretty much rained all day.

Saturday morning video….

One of my favorite questions of the weekend came from a young visitor. They asked about what to do if the straw mildews or gets moldy. What a great question, especially on a rainy day. Mold and mildew are a threat to straw. If a straw hat or bonnet gets wet and does not dry fast enough, it can develop mildew or mold. As bleach will weaken or dissolve the straw, I try spraying the straw with diluted vinegar. If need be, use an old toothbrush to work the mildew or mold free.

On Sunday, a troop of Girl Scouts were my first visitors. They had many good questions while being excellent listeners. They reminded me of some of the types of programming I really miss doing.

What a difference a day makes…

I discovered there are some notable changes for me when setting up the millinery in May rather than in July. Among them….

  • School is still in session. This means my preparation time is completely different. I had developed a two week staging process with a samples making build up spanning about a month. Neither of those were feasible with school in session.
  • Food via roadside stands is not a possibility in May. Strawberries aren’t ready. Raspberries aren’t ready. Basically, stands here are starting to have plants. That is it.
  • Eating leading up to the event isn’t a concern for most people. Given my digestive and migraine issues, I have to be careful. In July, I graze of vegetables and fruit with some sage carbs and protein the handful of days before an event. This doesn’t work when I need to be at work, taking lunches. I’ve discovered I am freaking hungry!
  • The weather is completely different. Wednesday morning, I had a thick layer of ice frost on my car. It was a cold 34 degrees on the drive in. Setting up Friday morning was quite pleasant, though, being in the 50s with a breeze. If anything, I forgot to drink enough water as I worked.
  • Allergies! 🤧
Published in: on May 22, 2023 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  

“I Got this Hat. Now What?”

Congratulations! You have a reproduction hat. It may be one of mine. It may be one made by another talented milliner. In either case, you are ready for the next step.

This post is for you. This post will cover the most common topics and questions about reproduction straw hats for the 1850s and 1860s. Some of these answers will apply to other eras as well.

My hat is too big.

Good news – this is a fairly easy adjustment. If a hat is just a bit too big, meaning it wiggles but doesn’t flop, a lining ribbon or a lining can help it fit better. A cotton sateen or petersham ribbon around the inside is generally recommended for comfort anyway. Adding a thin layer of cotton or wool batting behind the ribbon can thicken the reduction while adding soft comfort. Adding a lining to the crown or crown and brim can also improve the fit. Choose a silk taffeta, silk organza, or cotton organdy. Light gathers will bring the size in a little, while denser gathers will bring it in even more.

My hat is too small.

First, double check how you are wearing your hat by comparing to original images. In the modern era we tend to wear hats lower on our head, coming down onto the forehead. In the mid-19th century, hats were worn much higher on the head. This can make a hat feel too small while it is actually the right size for you.

If you find a hat is truly too small, consider passing it along. A straw hat can be stretched a small amount with the aid of a hat stretcher and mist bottle. This will likely effect the shape of the crown, possibly distorting it from its blocked period shape.

I want to decorate my hat.

This is the fun part. Be sure to spend some time looking at original images before starting. You will find period fashion illustrations show densely decorated hats while period photographs show a little more restraint. Elements most often include ribbon, flowers, and feathers either center front or to one side with the ends of ribbon to the back.

Use a strong, sharp needle and thread to tack trims in place. Use large stitches that are secure yet removable. This way you can change the trims as desired. Please do not use glues on straw. Floral arrangements can be made in whole or pieces prior to attaching to the hat. They can be tacked in place with thread or with pins.

Line the interior of the crom for added comfort. This can be done with a cotton sateen or petersham ribbon around the crown edge or a silk taffeta, silk organza, or cotton organdy lining the crown or crown and brim. The lining can be added before or after the trim. Each milliner does it differently.

My hat won’t stay on my head.

As hats of the era were worn higher on the head, they often do not feel secure. Original hats show an elastic cord or ribbon ties was placed where the brim and crown meet, approximately just above the ear area. This cord or ties would go behind the head, securing under the hair arrangement. I find quarter to half inch wide cotton sateen or cotton petersham work well for this as they tie and untie easily without getti g stuck on the hair.

Period photographs show some hats also had wide, decorative ribbons sitting over the ear area, just in front of where these ties would be. These ribbons can be fairly wide, often plaid or striped. Rosettes or bows can be seen in front of the ears.

Can I wear a hairnet with a hat?

A plain hairnet is a hair accessory, an item used in arranging or dressing the hair. As such it was worn with a variety of millinery items, including hats. Remember, these nets were light weight and fine, made of silk threads or hair. Decorative nets, such as those made of woven ribbons, are also see in illustrations worn with hats. Ribbon headdresses, such as those on a foundation with pleated or ruched ribbon may not combine well with a hat as the hat will crush the ruche or the ruche will cause the hat not to sit properly

Hat FAQ Video

This video contains several helpful pieces of information on hats:

My hat might not be right.

Sadly, sometimes merchants or other reenactors sell hats that are not considered accurate. The reality is a great deal of progress has been made in understanding the fashionable hat of the 1859s and 1860s over the past two decades. Thanks to the surge in easily accessible resources, such as period fashion illustrations, photographs, and originals, we now know more about who wore hats, when they wore them, and what those hats look like. This also means that hats produced years ago are no longer considered as correct as they once were.

If you find yourself with a hat that may not be accurate, take some time to look at period images and original hats. Look at their shape and their proportions. Then go back to your hat. Honestly decide whether the hat can be improved and if you have the time, skill, and resources to do so. For some, this can be a challenge project. For some, this can be an added frustration.

Improvements can come in the form of wiring a hat’s brim edge, removing rows of plait from the edge, or shortening the crown at the base. Each of these can feel simple or overwhelming to a person. Please keep in mind sewing straw is different from sewing fabric. It may or may not be something you are comfortable with. If the answer is “no”, pass the hat along to a local theater or use it for something else.

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Published in: on May 22, 2023 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Much Needed Time Travel

I spent today in the nineteenth century. As I walked into the historic village, I felt the tension leaving my body and soul. I had to stop for a moment to truly embrace it.

It was an absolutely perfect day to spend at the museum. (FB reel) The birds were chirping, sheep baaa-ing. Even the sound of the bees in the apple blossoms was enjoyable. (FB reel)

Today I was doing something a bit different: talking about dolls as fancy work.

When I started falling down the rabbit hole that is doll collecting, they were never supposed to be a part of my history life. After a bit, one would tag along on occasion to help accent some aspect of some of my interpretations. Then I got a phone call asking if I would talk about dolls for this weekend. Of course, I was willing.

Today’s program was in two parts. For most of the day, I chatted with visitors about dolls as fancy work in the dining room of Foster. In the afternoon, I offered a talk in the Gallery: The Little Companions of Ladies: How Childhood Playthings Became Adulthood Helpmates.

In the presentation, I explored how dolls as toys were viewed in the nineteenth century and how they were made into pin cushions, pen wipers, and other useful items.

To see more about Theo’s adventures while at the museum, hop over to Don’t Paint the Cat.

Published in: on May 13, 2023 at 6:06 pm  Comments (2)  

Spoon Bonnet

I added a spoon bonnet with vining on the brim and crown to my shop. This has a subtle spoon shape with high brim. (If this is still in the shop next week, I will pull it for the event.)

Published in: on May 9, 2023 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Measuring Your Head for Mid-19th Century Hats – Picking the Hat that Fits

There are two factors for finding a comfortable fit: Size and shape.


The difference in wear or placement means we measure for a mid-nineteenth century had differently than we do for a twentieth or twenty-first century hat. The modern hat is measured just above the eyebrow. (This is also where many of us measure for bonnets. We want to keep you on your toes.) For mid-nineteenth century, we measure higher, at the hair line. In this illustration, we can see the difference between where the two measurements would be.


These higher, hairline measurements are often smaller than those taken at the eyebrow. A hat worn at this point can be slightly smaller to slightly larger for comfort. So, add and subtract an inch to your hairline measure.

For example: I am 22.5″ around at my eyebrows and 21.5″ at my hairline. The vast land of the internet tells me that the average woman’s head measures 22.5″ to 22 5/8″ around at the modern measuring point. So, I am about average. I comfortably wear a mid-nineteenth century hat that is 19.5″ to 21.5″

Here is my head with the tape showing where to measure. This is where I wear most CW era hats. This is the circumference of my head. My measurement is 21 1/2″. (Note: this is a full inch smaller than the modern measurement take lower.)

General guidelines I use:

  • Small = Less than 21″ at the hairline (crown less than 20″)
  • Average = 21″-22.5″ at the hairline (crown 20-21.5″)
  • Large = Greater than 22.5″ at the hairline (crown greater than 22″)


It is helpful to know whether your head is more round or more oval.When looking from above, some people have rounder heads while other have more oval heads. I have an average oval head. Very round hats don’t work for me without adding to the lining.

round oval

Hat blocks can be more round or more oval with the same circumference. To illustrate: Both of these shapes to the right can have a circumference of 22.5″. Yet, the same hat would fit each head differently.

My straw hats and bonnets are available in my Etsy shop as I finish them: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AnnaWordenBauersmith

Are you one of the many readers enjoying my millinery blog posts?
Consider becoming a Patreon patron. Doing so helps support my work and helps me write more useful articles.
Published in: on May 1, 2023 at 12:05 am  Comments (3)  

Common Hat Styles (1860-65)

Common hat shapes during the American Civil War era.

There are 2 main componants to a hat from this era: the crown and the brim. Both thd crown and brim were particularly shaped to reflect the styles of the time.

When selecting hat for an 1860-1865 impression, please keep in mind the situation you are in as well as your impression. In many cases hats had specific purposes and places. These include those for the seaside, watercures, the garden*, and recreation. There are seperate posts for these. I welcome you to explore these. There are also hats appropriate to those of poorer situations, institutionalized or previously so situations, and blockaded situations. (*note: a garden hat is different than one for gardening.)

common 1

common 2

common 3

common 4

This next style is called a “Mousquetaire” hat or a “Postilion” hat.
Mousquetaire hats have tapered crowns that rise about four to five inches, not quite double the height of other fashion hats of the early 1860s. The brim is shaped, with a curve dipping front and back. This brim is narrow, only a few inches wide. The decorations are primarily at the center front, reaching the height of the crown. A ribbon may or may not circle the crown with a bow or arrangement in the back.

Additional variations (I have yet to make graphics for):

  • Smaller hats including Torque and porkpie
Published in: on May 1, 2023 at 12:05 am  Comments (1)  

A Flower for Spring?

Maybe I am just being hopeful with the rain all week…. but…. I see a flower in the tip of this bonnet.

Published in: on April 30, 2023 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Event Preparation

I am preparing for two upcoming events, two very different upcoming events.

In two weekends, I will be discussing how dolls were used in Victorian Fancy Work. The day will be spent demonstrating how a broken doll can become a pen wipe or pin cushion. I will wrap up the day with a presentation “The Little Companions of Ladies: How Childhood Playthings Became Adulthood Helpmates.” This discussion looks at how dolls transformed from childhood playthings to adulthood helpmates as pin cushions, pen wipers, and other forms of fancy work. We will explore the workbasket pages of popular women’s literature and original pieces of fancy work.

The very following weekend, I will be doing my Women’s Employments interpretation. With the very quick turnaround and timing being while school is in session, I have a new twist. Instead of fully transforming the insurance office into a millinery shop, I plan to be unpacking the new millinery shop through the weekend while searching for a millinery assistant. The latter gives a chance to discuss the qualifications and role for the position. The former allows for stacks of bandboxes and not as many finished pieces.

I have two more events in the active thinking and preparing stages. 🤔 I will share information on those soon.

This weekend, I am hoping to have all the materials for the first event out and ready.

I also hope to sell three millinery pieces and ten copies of To Net, or Not to Net, which I put on sale for the end of the month. Fingers crossed.

Published in: on April 29, 2023 at 8:44 am  Comments (3)  

25th Hat of the Year

This straw had a mind of its own. As I worked the vining around the brim. The brim curved into this pretty dome shape. I rather love it. I hope you do too.

The crown is 20.25″ around the inside, suitable for an average head.

Published in: on April 27, 2023 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment