Tatiana's Headdresses

Updated 26 May 2009

The following information has been posted on behalf of Her Excellency, Viscountess Tatiana Nikolaeva Tumanova, OL. Please contact her if you have any questions.

Here are a couple of photos of my two headdresses -- the maidenly one, made by Mistress Aldith Angharad St. George (Baroness Aldith Angharad St. George, O.P.), and the tall one which I made. I will make a note re: sumptuary laws/customs. It's possible if someone made a "pointed" headdress that they might catch grief if they weren't a least a peer, as coronets with a single point (or multiple points) are reserved to royal peers (the original Principality Coronets were made with a single point in the front, they have since been replaced with much fancier ones of 4 points). I'm a viscountess, but people tend to forget it as I don't wear my fancy viscountal coronet (made of silver and the same shape as that kokoshnik) very often. I'm more likely to be wearing a povoinik/ubrus, or a straw hat while out on the field heralding, or (scandalous, I know!) nothing at all on my head. My everyday ubrus also isn't quite the right size -- I made it before I got around to translating the measurements. Next time I make another I'll make it the correct size.

It is true that leather will stain, but the rawhide I used was undyed. However, not to take a chance, that's why I covered it in buckram before putting on the silk brocade, and in addition to that, the povoinik which the headdress rests on also absorbs my ungenteel sweat. I had also observed my friend Aldith, who made me a maiden's headdress out of burgundy velvet with gold couching, gold (period-style) spangles, gold-thread embroidery, and pearls, using this same technique (sans leather). She sewed a double layer of heavy-duty buckram together, then slip-stitched hat-makers wire along edges (which reminds me, I also sewed hat-maker's wire along the upper edges of my tall headdress, which also helps it to keep its curve), then she took the embroidered piece of velvet, laid it over the buckram and lapped it over the edges, and slip stitched that down. Then she took a piece of red brocade, folded the edges under, and slip stitched it to the back. She also took a heavy gold braid and appliquéd that along the upper edge, and made two thread loops at the ends of the piece. She ran a long length of red ribbon through the loops and that's how I tie it on. It's held up to years of abuse, too – one event I sweated profusely on it (this being a maiden's headdress, it sat directly on my uncovered hair) but it survived, and it's only showing a bit of wear along the bottom edge where the nap of the velvet has rubbed, and the gold braid along the top edge has tarnished just a bit (which is easy enough to replace). Here's a picture of Aldith when she was just starting to work on the embroidery here (http://history.westkingdom.org/Year25/Photos/B10.htm) and that's me (much younger and skinnier) standing next to her, sweating to death in my early sarafan made out of heavy green velvet (the fake sleeve panels are knotted up behind my back). It was about 88 degrees that day, as you can tell by our flushed sweaty faces.

I didn't do anything special with the back of the large headdress, it's just covered with the same brocade as the front but sans decoration, although I've seen photos of 18th century ones that sometimes had the backs as ornately embroidered as the fronts. I don't like doing embroidery but will probably force myself to do it just like I forced myself to do my own calligraphy. I CAN do it if I try, and don't cravenly give in to my desire to let Aldith do it for me (that woman is the most amazing embroiderer, calligrapher, and seamstress you ever saw!). One must suffer in order to be creative, after all. And you don't get better by letting other folks do your dirty work for you. Dang it.

If you decide to do one of these high-standing headdresses, use leather for the base. I made mine out of heavy rawhide (the thick stuff the guys use in their armor), which I soaked in water and tied around a pot to give it a curve while it dried, then covered with a layer of buckram. Covered the front with silk brocade, silk trim, and small seed pearls and slip-stitched that to the buckram so it lapped over the edges, then slip-stitched unadorned brocade to the back and couched down a thick line of braid along the upper edges. Before sewing down the back, I attached two ribbons at the sides. Then I made the pearl netting for the front (which looks icky because I taught myself, but now I've done more research and want to rip that all apart and do it over again, with smaller pearls and maybe some malachite beads!) and slip-stitched it to the front lower edge.

I also discovered two things about those really high headdresses – first, make it extend down the sides of your head to about the mid-point of your ears. You will find this makes it really stable, once you tie the ribbons back at the base of your neck. Secondly, the povoinik fits better if you attach string/ribbons to it at the temples and tie those back – it eliminates gaps that reveal your hair there and you don't have to keep tucking your hair back in (as in this unflattering photo here: http://history.westkingdom.org/Year36/Photos/TN27.htm). To my surprise I found the headdress not the least bit unwieldy (even bent over and drank from a water fountain while wearing it!), nor did it tip forward/back on my head. I have very short hair, and figured the thing would slide around on my head – folks with long hair can cross their braids over the head to make a "back" to rest the thing against, and if coiling their hair in a bun at the back, they can tie the ribbons underneath the bun. But it didn't give me the least bit of trouble, as I had curved back the sides of the headdress so it fit snug against the sides of my head. One that was entirely flat might be a bit more "tippy" depending upon how huge it was. I did make my povoinik with a drawstring at the back (forming the "bag" to hold long hair) and tied the headdress' ribbons beneath that, but on me it doesn't make much of a "lump" so it really couldn't be doing much in the way of anchoring the thing. I intend to make another one, flat (sides sticking straight out, but I don't think I'll use that shape with the downward pointing triangles) and in green, and I'll see then if my theory is correct, or if it's stable because it's just fitting snugly to my head and gripping it on the sides.

I first put on the povoinik, made out of linen with a red brocade front (you can see that underneath the fur-edged cap I'm wearing in the photo), then tie on the headdress, then drape it with an ubrus. First I wore a white ubrus but it didn't look particularly well on my pale ol' face, so I replaced it with a red one (much more the thing!). Originally I wore the ubrus pinned together beneath my chin but I've found it looks better with the ends falling free around my face (this one is a big square folded into a triangle, and fringed). I also started just draping it over my head (pinning it to the back of the headdress right down next to the bottom) instead of off the headdress itself, which gives a really nice "fall" to the veil.

Veils are fun – I've found I rather like the long rectangular one wrapped around the head twice (I start mine down by the angle of my jaw, wrap it up over the top of my head once, wrap it a little farther back on the second wrap, and make one small forward fold near the temple to bring the edge forward (anchored there with one straight pin) that then dangles down in front. The back corner of the veil then falls to a perfect point in the back, making it look triangular from behind. The edges should be embroidered but I've never gotten around to that, I mean. what with liking embroidery and all – not! I'm wearing that style here (http://history.westkingdom.org/Year23/Photos/TN4.htm) and it went perfectly with the old coronets of Cynagua (wooden) which we were wearing because the newer silver ones were being refurbished. These were returned during the course of the event, so then I put the silver one over my povoinik, which was green satin in the front and horribly slippery – I wouldn't use satin again! – here(http://history.westkingdom.org/Year23/Photos/TN14.htm). It's not obvious in the first photo but I was wearing the green-fronted povoinik under the wooden coronet, too.

Maidenly Headdress

Embroidery of Maidenly Headdress

Tall Headdress

Tall Headdress sans Ubrus

Tall Headdress with White Ubrus

Headdress with old wooden coronets of Cynagua

Green Satin Povoinik

COPYRIGHT (c) by BJ Gerth - bj.gerth at sbcglobal.net. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if the articles remain complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.

Return to Russian Materials
Return to homepage