The Cap à la Russe – Some Research over Christmas

Merry late Christmas, everyone!

After the holidays, I am finally back with a new post for you. Over Christmas I have sorely missed my sewing projects. So I did some research on Regency caps instead. There is a rather special day cap that caught my attention. It is called a “cap à la Russe”. I found it in a mid-1813 issue of Ackermann’s. Right below is a quick (slightly sloppy) sketch of it I made at the library. Funnily, there is next to nothing about it on the internet, so here is my take on it for your reading pleasure:

My sketch of a "cap à la Russe" with notes.

My sketch of a “cap à la Russe” with notes.

What is a “cap à la Russe” and how is it Russian?

When you read through fashion publications from the 1810s and 20s you will usually find praise and descriptions of the latest French couture. Seeing how the Empire look was mainly a French brainchild, this is not so surprising. Now, between 1813 and 1815 that enthusiasm ebbed away a bit in most English journals. And no wonder, it was the hot phase of the Napoleonic Wars. So, patriotism found its way into English fashion.
For once, Spitalfields Silk became a fashionable dress fabric all over the country. On the other hand, Regency fashions from other countries, especially from Russia, gained a little more attention.

The “cap à la Russe” in one of these non-French twist on Empire clothing. Basically, it is a round-eared cap, like the one from the Kannik’s Korner 1740-1820 cap pattern. But, unlike your average cloth cap, it is laced to one side, rather than below the chin. That is pretty much it.

Some general thoughts on cap construction:

Being pretty new to cap making, I took some time to look around for helpful construction and patterning hints. One of the first things I found was Jenni’s girls’ cap on Living with Jane. It gave me a good idea of the general shape and construction of regency caps. There is also Sarah Jane’s organdy caps on Romantic History. Here, the brim and ruffle are a little shorter and further away from the face. I like both very much, but the second cap is probably a bit closer to the look I want for my project.

As another source, I looked into some “newer” cap patterns from the early Victorian era. The 1837 night cap from “The Female’s Friend” is close to the roundish Regency shape. But, when you look at the overall length of 45 inches, the pattern turns out to be slightly too long.

Night cap pattern from "The Female Friend" (1837)

Night cap pattern from “The Female Friend” (1837)

Another pattern comes from “The Workwoman’s Guide”. The measurements on it are in nails. One nail are 2 1/4 inches. Surprisingly, you can actually use Google to do the conversions. On top of that, both books are available in full through Google Books. :) Especially the “Workwoman’s Guide” is worth a look as it features lots and lots of authentic 19th-century underwear and linen patterns.

Cap pattern from “The Workwoman’s Guide” (1840).

For my “cap à la Russe” I am going to make a sort-of hybrid out of these two patterns with some alterations:

  1. Shorten the main pattern piece so that the ruffle ends just on top of the forehead.
  2. Measure the brim and ruffle short enough to leave a little gap at the nape of the neck.
  3. Close a portion at the bottom of the cap because the lacing will not really do that job here. (I could also use a circular pattern and draw it up, but then it will be more of a mob cap. ;) )
  4. Insert a length of ribbon or bobbin band between the cap and brim that laces to one side of the head. A narrow casing for tie would be another option. We will see what works best…

Once I have made a working cap pattern, I will show it off to you on here. But perhaps you will be quicker making your own now. Either way, I hope my post was helpful for you. If you have questions or further pattern suggestions, please let me know. :)

Meanwhile I will finally get to work on my chemise for the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014. This will be my first-ever project for the HSF and I am super excited about it. :D

Much Love and a Happy New Year,

Nessa

 

Useful links:

“The Workwoman’s Guide” (1840) and “The Female’s Friend and General Domestic Adviser” (1837) on Google Books.

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