Art Deco originated in France after WWI. It was an art movement characterized by symmetrical lines and combinations of patterns and shapes often depicting machinery. Having replaced Art Nouveau with its flourished embellishments of letters, flowers and motifs, Art Deco was seen as modern; forward thinking.
By 1940, the era of Art Deco had come and gone; its appeal happily replaced by abstract expressionism and an early form of mixed media called “assemblage.” It is in this transitional period that Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile. Published in 1937, the book captures disdain commoners felt toward the status quo and social elite. One of the book’s characters, Mr. Ferguson, shows the irony of rebelling against one’s nobility when he loses the girl to Dr. Bessner, a tradesman… and quack.
The 1978 film adaptation with its all-star cast doesn’t follow the book in detail, but it captured the Art Deco era. For me, it offered a glimpse of a bygone era and spawned a love of Irish Crochet and square heeled pumps. I especially love the boudoir cap worn by Bette Davis (1908-1989) in her opening scene.
Indeed, the designer, Anthony Powell (1935-Living), won the BAFTA and Academy Award for Best Costume Designer that year for his work in Death on the Nile. This Academy Award, being the penultimate of three credited to his name.
Ms. Davis’ lace cap is comprised of four parts: a circular tulle top (approx. 4 1/2″ diameter) with rectangular surround (approx. 14.15″x5″) and four (coaster-like) embroidered tulle or alencon needle lace squares used as trimming (each approx. 3″x3″). There is some floral embroidery, small and colored, in the forefront. The cap is sewn and most likely contains elastic in the inner joins, hidden from view.
To crochet a boudoir cap in this style, begin with a flower and net a trellis outward to form a circle between 4″ – 5″ in diameter. To determine the circumference (2piR): measure the circle and divide by 2, to arrive at the radius. Then, using a calculator: take 22, divided by 7, multiplied by 2, multiplied by the radius = That will give you the length of the rectangle; it’s width is 5″. Crochet the rectangle and sew it around the circle. This leaves a triangular shape (because the head is oblong), so continue the length, dropping the last mesh at the bottom (to keep the back neckline straight) and join at the top to the opposite side (rather than joining to the top circle). This creates the back seam. Then make four (4) square coasters or motifs approx. 3″x3″ to sew on the bottom edge around the front or use pieces of Alencon or Battenburg lace. The squares should be in a diamond pattern; one over each ear and two (joined) over the forehead. If you have a mannequin head, especially a styrofoam head, that makes the assembly easier. Line with silk or satin (like a purse lining) and embellish with embroidery, appliques, or very small crochet flowers in colored thread.
Work in Process:
See the difference that padding thread makes: