Mantelet, Hat and Purse: The Upon Discussion, Ultimately Late Victorian Accessory Set

Here we have a mantelet, hat and purse. This ultimately late Victorian accessory set was intended as a prototype for some 18th Century American Girl Doll accessories. What came out of it wasn’t  exactly period or, even, arguably, aesthetics, but as proof of concept for pattern and construction…. I’m not sure it did that either. But I like to look at it. I don’t want to look away, either. It’s all sort of like a very festive Christmas train wreck.

The fabric was a remnant of stiff salmon-colored upholstery silk.   The trim is a rococo trim from Spotlight (a bit coarse, but the colors were right) with a green variegated 7mm silk ribbon twisted around it.  Beads and feathers were from my stash.


The hat was based on the delicious and altogether edible millinery confections from the film Marie Antoinette – like this one:

kirsten dunst as marie antoinette in a cream floral dress and small hat

My Version:

a small peach colored doll hat with a fluffy feather trim

For the hat base I used a buckram wreath form left over from a wired ribbon workshop I took more than 15 years ago.  (Never throw ANYTHING out.  It all comes around in the end!) The wreath form is not a perfect circle and the center hole is off center and the buckram is not very strong , even when reinforced with millinery wire around the brim.  I didn’t mull the hat after I wired it, so you can see the outline of the bias binding I used to wrap the edge if you look at the underside –

I do like the trim, though! The cockade is made of more of the silk ribbon, a few feathers and a bunch of gold-tipped stamens from my stash.

I tea-dyed the marabou feathers  – that was fun!  I’d never tea-dyed before. Reading that vinegar and salt both work to fix the dye, I decided to add both to the water, for redundancy, of course, and my pretty ecru-colored feathers turned a spectacular neon yellow orange.

I rinsed the color out and re-dyed them, using only salt this time, and it worked beautifully.

Unfortunately, this hat is a leetle too small on the doll head for the eighteenth century, but it works CHARMINGLY as a non-period-specific  accent worn on the front of the head at a fetching angle. (blurry photo warning):

close up of an american girl doll wearing a victorian ensemble of capelet and hat


The mantelet was drafted from the instructions by Garsault.  It came out sort of like this:

front view of a late victorian american girl doll capelet

Um.  The PATTERN worked lovely.  The muslin draped very nicely, as well.  If I’d been in my right mind I might have used a fabric for the final version that draped instead of using stiff upholstery silk, and I might not have used two layers of it (what on EARTH was I thinking?), as well as adding a nice stiff taffeta lining.

And I might have used a lace that was scale appropriate and less Edwardian.  And if I had done THAT, I might not have gotten desperate and started doing COMPLETELY misguided rococo-ish figures of eight across the back of the mantelet to distract from the trim –

As it was, I spent a whole evening twisting and couching that ruddy trim and at the end of it all I sat back and looked at it and said – “Er….”

Mr Tabubil had HIS face pre-set into an expression of proud approval, but he took one look and cracked.

“Tabubilgirl” he said gravely “what you have made here is a American Girl scale Christmas Tree Skirt.”

front view of a late victorian american girl doll capelet


I AM unambiguously proud of the purse – I used a leftover scrap of silk and trimmed it with green embroidery floss – couching it with small seed beads, and twisting it into cord (6 strand cord for the profile and 4 strand cord for the handle.)

close-up of a small silk doll purse embroidered with beads and green couching

It’s not rococo – it’s not truely anything except what felt right at the time but – embroidery floss couched with beads will ALWAYS be a good thing in any book.

This set languished in the closet until mum visited a few months ago.  Despairing lightly, I brought it out to show her.  She had a look at it and pointed out that it wasn’t actually that bad an ensemble – I had just confused myself by thinking it was mid-eighteenth century.  If I pushed the date forward one hundred years or so, it would work just fine.

So here is the upon discussion, ultimately late Victorian accessory set – Capelet, Hat and Purse.  If my AG doll was a vaguely tarty sort who worked in a saloon in Denver where Doc Holiday came in nights to play the piano and she flirted her bustle at him and sat on his lap and kissed him around a shot glass full of raw moonshine whiskey.

an american girl doll wears a late victorian ensemble consisting of a peach capelet, hat and purse

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