As part of the costume for historical Governess Dominatrix Theresa Berkley, it was decided that 'She' should have a hat.
Theresa Berkley was operating in around the 1820s in Charlotte Street, London, (now Hallam Street), but she was time-travelling in attire back to the roughly 1780s-90s era of her clients' childhoods and adolescence. This was to create an echo and evocation of their past, and to the authoritative female figures with whom they came into contact. The Dominatrices of the era were thus referred to as "Governesses", after the most common role they played as female disciplinarian, alongside roles of school-mistress, mother, step-mother, strict aunt, maid, and so on. The image was tinted with the slightly dark or demonic character, to gain the tingly affect as the fight-flight-freeze-fawn instinct kicked in with high arousal, and is played with in domination role-plays.
Headpiece with a birch rod
I had seen a print by James Gillray in the British Museum collection of Lady Termangant Tinglebum
- which features a woman wearing a Regency bonnet adorned with a large feather plume and at either side - two large birch rods.
Image: James Gilray Lady Termagant Tinglebum / the Lovely Flagellation (1795)
British Museum collection #1868,0808.6260.
I loved the idea of incorporating a miniature version of a birch rod into a hat or headpiece of some kind.
Hats of the era often featured embellishments such as botanicals, feather plumes and ribbons, for fashion, fascination and exhibitionism.
Above: Fashion plate from Journal de la Mode et du Gout, September 1790.
featuring hat with ribbon and botanical flourishes.
Having settled on this plan to affix birch rods to a headpiece, the question was what type of hat style to go with.
Lisa Timbs, the milliner of Miss Bedford's Emporium
I contacted an English milliner, Lisa Timbs of The Square Pianist
and who runs Miss Bedford's Emporium
, making historically-inspired replica hats by hand. Her Etsy shop is named after her grandmother, who was also a pianist and milliner.
Inspiration for Theresa Berkley's black hat
A black hat seemed most appropriate as the basis for Theresa Berkley's headpiece to affix a miniature birch rod to, to refer to her craft profession specialization in birch discipline.
Scanning the late 18th Century to early 19th Century period, I came across beautiful commanding portraits of royal and aristocratic women in black hats, such as a Portrait of (Princess) Anna Lopukhina by Jean-Louis Voille, and a Portrait of Marquise d'Aragon by Jean-Lauren Mosnier.
Images: Jean-Louis Voille (c1792-3) Portrait of Anna Lopukhina;
and Jean-Laurent Mosnier (1743-1808) Portrait of Marquise d'Aramon
Another source was French fashion plates surviving from the late 18th Century era, featuring elegant women in pierrot jackets with riding whips.
Image: French fashion plate (1793)
Image: French fashion plate (1787)
The Theresa Berkey "Chapeau" Hat
We went for a full-size hat rather than a "percher" style, with a turned up brim and round crown, which would be more stable during activity and filming.
Lisa sourced a lovely vintage cabochon type brooch in pink and gold, and ribbon for a bow at the front in pinky-purple hues.
She gathered local birch twigs to create a cute little miniature version of the birch rods depicted in historical prints. This was affixed beside a black feather plume for flounce. And black ribbon for the circumference and bow at the rear.
Image: Rear view of the Theresa Berkley hat
I wore the hat for the filming of Theresa Berkley's recreated salon for Sex: A Bonkers History
starring UK celebrity Amanda Holden, alongside attire made by Inna Tiourine
. (You can read a blog post on the attire for my Theresa Berkley costume here
Above: Behind the scenes image of Amanda Holden and Anne O Nomis on the set of Sex: A Bonkers History
for Sky TV.
It's lovely collaborating with such passionate makers of historical replica millinery and clothing, and both Lisa and Inna were connected to their grandmothers in their craft profession.
The riding crop I'm holding on set is a Swaine & Isaac 1825-1845 era gilt metal ladies riding crop, appropriate for the look and era in which Theresa Berkley was working - in around the 1820s-30s, and those French prints above in this article.
Image: Swaine & Isaac 1825-1845 era riding crop & detail of handle
I hope you've enjoyed this unexpected journey through millinery history and inspiration. I just love me a good hat!