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Turbans Through Time: The Regency
Transcript of Turbans Through Time: The Regency
Personally I am fascinated with this style of turban. The chin-strap appears on turbans of all varieties and over a wide span of time. It does appear to be absent on turbans after the late 18-teens. It is possible that the element of the chin-strap was inspired by turbans worn by desert people in the Middle East. These turbans often include a loose end that can be folded across the face to help shield the nose and mouth from sand. The chin-strap may also have been inspired by the style of caps popular throughout the period that often included a ribbon on piece of fabric tied under the chin. Whatever the inspiration, this is a style that was clearly popular judging from portraits and fashion plates.
Chin up ol' Girl!
Turbans with Chin-straps
Toquing About Toque-style Turbans
Portrait of Frederikke Schmidt ca. 1818
Marie Sophie Frederikke ca. 1808
Madame de Stael, ca. 1805
by Louis-Ami Arlaud Jurine
The Wallace Collection
Portrait of Madame de Stael, ca. 1810
by Francois Gerard
Mrs. Sarah Siddons as "Mrs. Haller" in "The Stranger"
Museum of London
Dolley Madison, ca. 1805-1810
Yale University Are Gallery
An Unknown Lady - mid 1790's
Mille de Pront, 1818
Portrait of a Fashionable Woman
Wearing a Turban - 1818, by Henry Eldridge
Portrait of Lady Charlotte Campbell
by Archibald Skirving, ca. 1802
Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1798
Portrait of unknown woman in a turban,
by Orest Kiprensky
French, 1800-1805, MFA Boston
French, 1804-1814, MET Museum
A toque is generally a hat with either no brim or a very narrow brim. The word "toque" is arabic for hat and is also closely related to the arabic words for round and opening. The toque was often worn as part of the uniform of both magistrates and chefs in France. Toque-style turbans are really more like hats than turbans, but they are often referred to as turbans in fashion plates of the period. Generally to be referenced as a "turban", the toque will be draped with fabric and somewhat less structural than a traditional toque.
The tied turban was most popular in European women's fashions in the 1790s and very early 1800s. However, tied turbans existed throughout the period and into the 1820s. The larger turbans of the 1820s and 30s, as well as the elaborate hairstyles necessitated a formed headdress. Work turbans continued to be present and there was even a short-lived fashion craze in Paris for the simple tied work turban during the 1820s.
Mrs. Robert Shurlock & daughter, 1801
ca, 1823 - American, cotton - MET Museum
1800-1810, American, silk
French, 1790-1810, MFA Boston
Madame Catalani - published 1807
Victoria & Albert Museum
1805 - Franziska von Kaunitz-Rietberg
Fit to Be Tied: Turbans Wrapped & Tied
UTO's - Unidentified Turban-like Objects
Jane Ramsey Peale, c. 1802, by James Peale
Addison Gallery of Art
Mary, Countess of Inchiquin
by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Mary Harvey, 1813, by Thomas Sulley
Unknown lady in a white turban
by John Barry
La Belle Assemblee, January, 1812
1802 by Ann Frankland Lewis
Bonnet Turban - 1801
1795-1800 gown at the
Kyoto Costume Institute
I'm With the Band - The Bandeaux-style Turban
From the French word "bande", meaning strip of fabric, the Bandeaux-style turban was more like a headband rather than a full turban. These could vary greatly in style from a single strip to multiple strips of fabric and with or without embellishments like feathers and brooches. Often a bow or hanging strip of fabric were a part of the look. This style was most popular in the later 1780s, 1790s and the first few years of the 1800s. However, the bandeaux did remain popular for evening wear throughout the Regency period.
Mrs. Edward Trescott, 1822
19th Century English School
Woman in a Turban
Lady wearing a white turban
by John Cox Dillman Engleheart
Catherine, Lady Blantyre, 1812
by William John Thomson, V&A
Journal de Luxus
Evening dress, 1817
Princess Louise - 1800
In this category I've lumped the sacque style and the big puffy beret styles along with those that don't really fit in any other category. The sacque style was most fashionable in the late 1790s and very early 1800s. You see it much more rarely after about 1806. The puffy beret style is seen throughout the period and well into the 1830s. In fact it becomes a very popular style during that period and grew to extreme puffiness!
Turbans were a hugely popular headdress during the Regency period. It is debatable why the fashion became so trendy, but many fashion historians will point to Napoleon's invasion of Egypt as the inspiration. However this doesn't seem to hold true since turbans were quite popular before that time. There are many examples of European, British and American women sporting turban-like headdresses in the 1770's right on through until the mid 1800's. Europe and Great Britain had been exposed to a variety of turban-wearing cultures from India, Africa and the Middle East. While the popularity of turbans surely saw a boost from Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and Britain's increased control of India and the Middle East, we can't find one root cause as the inspiration, but instead a general trend for "classicism", "orientalism" and "exoticism" in fashion. Trends in fashion often repeated in times of social upheaval and often in complement to one another.
Keep in mind that turbans were an ideal way to express individuality...there were countless styles and variations of the theme. This is a headdress that had few rules. However, there are a few general trends regarding Regency-era turbans.
Tied turbans tend to be more popular in the 1790's and early 1800's. Later on, tied turbans were usually on a form and a bit more structured. (Again, not an absolute rule)
Ostrich feathers tended to be used more as a turban decoration earlier in the period, especially the 1790's. Later on, the aigrette was more typical. However, not all turbans were decorated with feathers. Almost any decoration that could be used on a bonnet was also used with turbans
Silk was not necessarily the most common fabric for turbans. Equally, if not more popular was cotton. In particular, gauzy cotton with metallic thread was extremely fashionable. Almost any fabric that would be used in dressmaking of the time would be permissible for turbans. The rule is simply to keep the fabric lightweight with a very nice drape.
In the late Regency (late 18-teens) turbans were often considered a fashion best suited to married women, although evening turbans were still popular for all ages and marital statuses.
Turbans were worn for both day and evening wear.
Evening turbans were more elaborately decorated than those worn in the day. Turban caps and house turbans were used for indoors.
Fashion turbans worn in Europe, America and England were most likely not tied in any sort of traditional manner. Instead, Regency fashionistas were mimicking the exotic styles of India, Africa, and the Middle East and adding their own flair. More than likely there wouldn't have been a standard turban cloth size just like there wasn't a standard tying method.
A good tying size can range anywhere from 2.5 to 5 or 6 yards and about 18 to 28 inches wide. If you are using a heavier fabric or want a smaller turban keep the sizing on the low end of the scale listed above. Prefer a larger, dramatic style of turban use the measurements on the higher end. Also, if you are using a gauzy, thin fabric or a fabric with less body keep the measurements on the larger side...however, a stiff-bodied silk like taffeta needs to probably be a bit smaller. This takes some trial and effort and no one size will fit all fabrics and all styles. Also, make the best use of your fabric - if you are using 45 inch wide fabric just cut it in half and make two turban scarves of 22.5 inches each.
*In teaching turban tying to others I usually use a lightweight cotton measuring 3 to 3.5 yards in length and about 22 inches across.
Fabrics of all sorts were used for turban tying. However, tied turbans that are not sewn to a form tend to be easier to manipulate in a stiffer silk like taffeta or cotton. If you are sewing your turban to a form then almost any fabric will do, even velvet.
You may be able to find ready-made modern scarves that do the trick and work well as a Regency turban. However, the modern-day "fake" pashmina style scarves and wraps are not quite appropriate for a historically accurate Regency turban. Now you have the perfect excuse to raid the remnant section of the fabric store! I often buy remnants of silk or cotton and piece them together as needed to create turban scarves.
To hem or not to hem...that is the question. The answer is that you can do either. If you are worried about raw edges just sew a tiny hem on your turban scarf. However, if you feel confident in your turban tying abilities just strategically hide the raw edges and save yourself some work.
The best source on Regency turbans on the internet!
Lynn McMasters demonstration on tying turbans.
Jane Austen's Mamalouc Turban
*"The Mode in Hats & Headdresses: A Historical Survey With a 198 Plates", R. Turner Wilcox, Dover Publications
*"Women's Hats, Headdresses, and Hairstyles", Georgine De Courtais, Dover Publications
*"Bergere, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early 19th Century Headwear", Serena Dyer, Codnor Books
*"Historic Dress in America - Volume One", Elisabeth McClellan
*"Jane Austen Fashion: Fashion and Needlework in the Works of Jane Austen", Penelope Byrde, Moonrise Press
*"Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion, 1795-1815", Christina Barreto and Martin Lancaster, Skira
Resources & Sources
A Mamalouc Turban/Cap was mentioned
by Jane Austen in a letter from her to her
Dolley Madison, 1817 by Joseph Wood
Bridgeman Art Library
Portrait of a Lady, early 1790s by Thomas Lawrence
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Sarah Reeve Ladson Gilmor by Thomas Sully, 1823
Gibbes Museum of Art
Countess Skavronskaia, 1790
Portraiit of a Young Woman by Circle of Jacques Louis-David, 1800
Madame de Stael, 1812
1823, American, cotton,
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1820, British, silk
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of M D Dunina, 1799
Portrait of Empress Yelizaveta Alekseyevna, by Vigee-LeBrun
by Richard Brunton
Queen Luise, 1797
Sarah Polk's turban -
use of photos approved by the James K. Polk Home & Museum - may be used in private research only