How to Make a Fascinator – burlesque crafts tutorial

how to make a fascinator

We’ve all seen fascinators, on burlesque beauties and in the streets – they’re the curly-swirly things that sit on your head and aren’t hats. Fascinators are decorated with lots of netting, flowers feathers and sequins… even plastic neon skeletons, if you wish it. Fascinators can be shockingly expensive – and who wants to have the same as everyone else, anyway? Mookychick shows you how to make your own!

Back in the 18th century, women began to give up their hats in favour of the fascinator, decorating their hair with flowers, feathers and bows. (See more 18th century fashion tips on Mookychick). These 18th century fascinators were dainty and occasionally playful headpieces, unlike those we see today. There were rules of etiquette applied to wearing hats, such as when they could be worn. Hats made a statement about matters such as class and breeding. So it wasn’t until the late 1950’s – with the occurrence of the feminist movement and the death of influential designer Christian Dior – that women were more prepared to give up the hat.

Stylish and elegant, fascinators found their way into burlesque style. Anyone wishing to become a burlesque dancer can expect to get handy with making their own costumes, so making your own fascinator is a great place to start!

Having signified a slow escape from strict social standards, fascinators are still worn as alternatives to other headwear, but are now much more of a style statement than a social one. Nonetheless, even the slummingest electro death-chick can acquire a bit of breeding when she dons her unique fascinator for a night on the tiles!

You’ll need:

  • Scissors
  • Multipurpose glue
  • Glue gun
  • Stapler
  • Thin card
  • Fabric
  • Comb
  • Measuring tape
  • Compass

How to make a fascinator base:

1. Measure across the top of the comb. Add 0.5cm. Grab your compass and draw a circle onto the card with the diameter of that measurement. Then draw a straight line from the centre of the circle to the edge. Cut out and cut along the line. Overlap the edges to make a cone shape and staple (glue if you prefer).

2. Spread glue across the top of the cone and stick on fabric. Turn over and cut off the excess, allowing 1cm around the edge. Make cuts in this ‘seam allowance’ 1cm apart. Glue around the edge of the card, leave to go tacky, and then fold the fabric over and press to stick down the excess left around the edge.

Tip: Some fabrics – such as acetate satin – will soak up multipurpose glue and it will show through. An alternative is to use Pritt Stick sparingly and press firmly.

3. To cover the bottom of the base, apply glue, leaving about 0.3cm at the edge. Lay fabric over the top, smooth down and trim off any extra bits. Fix on the comb with a glue gun.

Note: Leave this step until last if you’re going to use staples to attach things to the base (see next part!)

How to decorate the fascinator

The best way to attach something to your fascinator base depends on what it is!

Feathers: Glue can make some feathers look pretty damn ratty! A couple of staples can hold a feather on securely, though feathers with thicker quills are better suited to a bit of hot glue applied to the quill. With marabou feathers and trim, use multipurpose glue sparingly and press down carefully.

Plastic and metal: A small amount of hot glue from a glue gun (they’re very cheap) does the trick.

Fake fur and trims: Apply with glue.

Hat netting: Arrange as you desire and sew it into place.

Artificial flowers: Glue is your best bet. Use a glue gun for the larger flowers, and multipurpose glue for the tiny wired ones. If you’re sticking on the whole bunch as it is, cut the wires to size and staple.

Buttons: Either sew on, or use a glue gun.

Ribbon: Bows can be affixed with a glue gun; with lengths of ribbon try Pritt Stick, or sew on.

Final touches

Your fascinator is taking shape and looking pretty, but there are staples showing. Oh no! Just cover it up. Try glueing a small, fluffy marabou feather over a staple, or taking up your glue gun and applying an artificial flower–or anything else that springs to mind.

More decorating ideas…

Theme! Go wild with leopard print, exotic-looking feathers and fake fur. Get spooky with plastic bats, neon plastic bones and black roses – not forgetting the funereal veil.

Colour! Put together fabric, flowers and feathers all in the same shade. Alternatively, use a few bright, contrasting colours for extra impact.

Shiny! Sequinned fabric, metallic flowers, diamante and appliqué motifs.

Outlandish! Don’t feel limited by the norm. If you want to stick on Kitty in my Pocket or tiny army men, do so!

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