Colonial Tricorn Hats for 18th Century Patriots and Privateers
Tricorn Hats Top off an 18th Century Costume for Men and Boys - and Women, too!
We often think of the three-cornered tricorn hat as a pirate hat, but it is also a common costume of the American Revolutionary War period. As headgear goes, I'd venture to say this style is the ideal hat for a man's colonial costume for theatre, parades, Halloween fancy-dress parties, or patriotic Fourth of July costumes.
Tricorn hats were found across the western world and on the high seas, in the 1700s, worn by men in all walks of life - from pirates to privateers, private citizens to princes, as well as a part of military and naval uniforms - and some of the most fashionable women of colonial times wore a stylish tricorn hat as well.
A Tricorn Hat gives a costumed man a real swashbuckling style!
Fancy Tricorn Hat
The average working guy in colonial times is very likely to have worn a tricorn hat, but it would have been a plain affair in dark felted wool or perhaps leather, without the fancy trim. One of the Founding Fathers, a prosperous merchant or lawyer, or a military or naval officer can certainly wear a braid-trimmed style of tricorn with confidence.
For a less affluent man's costume, you might want to forego the braid, or distress the shining trim just slightly with a light touch of watered-down acrylic craft paint in a sienna or mid-tone brown, to give a greater impression of age and wear-and-tear to the hat, fitting for the character you're playing.
On the other end of the social scale, this fancy tricorn hat sports a degree of ornamentation that sets it well above the common run, so it's most appropriate if your colonial costume is intended to represent a character of some high social standing - and a rather flashy taste in hats!
Make Your Own Tricorn Hat
If you can't find the perfect tricorn hat to complete your 18th century costume, consider the possibility of making your own.
Colonial Costume Sewing Pattern
The easiest way to make a tricorn hat to complete your colonial costume may very be end up being just to get out the sewing machine or find a seamstress to whip one up.
How hard can it be to sew a hat, compared to blocking it from a piece of cowhide or felting your own tricorn from raw wool?
Tricorn Hats for Ladies
Women in the 18th century also adopted the fashion for tricorn hats, especially in the fashionable circles of the European upper class. The three-cornered hat was a practical style for ladies who rode out with the hounds in all weather, as well as being a flattering piece of headgear that sat well on the often-elaborate hair styles of the period, and often formed an essential part of the horsewoman's ensemble.
The tricorns worn by women for hunting were very similar to those worn by men of their class for the same purpose, usually trimmed with braid and perhaps an ornament where the brim turned up at the side.
For purely fashionable wear, however, a very feminine version of the three-cornered hat was slightly smaller, fabric covered to match the dress rather than made of felted wool or leather, and often very heavily embellished with jewels, ribbons, feathers, and so on.
The painting reproduced here shows a young Marie Antoinette in her hunting costume, but if you've seen the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette, you may recall a frivolous and very lovely little pale-blue tricorn among Kirsten Dunst's costumes in the film.
If you'd like to try your hand at making a ladies' version of the iconic 18th century headgear, Naergi has an illustrated tutorial with detailed instructions for how to make a tricorn hat inspired by that very outfit from the movie. To see how to make a variation on the fabric-covered ladies' tricorn, see the video tutorial below.