Make your own Kokoshnik Tutorial - A Perfect Wedding Headpiece or Costume Accessory

In the first part of this project I looked back at the history of the Kokoshnik and at some of the inspirations and ideas for my own design. Here I'm sharing a step-by-step, detailed account  of both the design and construction. As mentioned in the previous article I was making the Kokoshnik as part of a costume design for an independent film company with the attendant minimal budget, so much of the materials I used were upcycled, remnants or refashioned from other projects. For the Kokoshnik, I favoured an elongated shape, which gave the actress the necessary dominating height, elegance and a hint of menace, to reflect her own characterisation of the Faerie Queen but you can alter the basic shape to suit your own requirements. As embellishments, even though this was essentially a costume, I knew that close-ups, camera angles and movement would require substantial and detailed work. This Kokoshnik was hand embroidered and beaded in detail and is meant to stand the rigours of use. I also think if you are going to create this for your own or perhaps a friend's wedding day it would be important to sew something that can be kept as a work of art! I liked the traditional Northern Russian use of freshwater pearls in Kokoshnik design and I had just the materials suitable to create this look in a Primark beaded cardigan, which my sister had given me some years back and which I had worn every Winter since to destruction! I also had several other bought or recuperated sewing notions and items, which gave me a basis for the design and I will detail how I used them as I go through the tutorial. As I also explained previously, the whole costume was based on a refashioning of an embroidered silk dress I had designed and made as an alternative colourway to my own Wedding dress. Luckily, although perhaps not as I am an inveterate hoarder, I had kept all the remnants from that particular project and thus had material with which to match the dress to the headpiece.


Heavy Duty Interfacing - this would be the kind normally used to line hats. You can buy iron-on if so required but it is not necessary. The old Kokoshnik makers often used stiff card or cardboard to line their creations and this could also be an option, however, as I am always designing and making hats, I have interfacing to hand. Measure the circumference of your head and fix the height of your design, double that amount and that is how much you need!

Ribbons - These I used in appliqué to create flowers, as bead fringing and to make the traditional fastening for the headpiece. Most were purchased in a closing-down sale as high quality gift ribboning and garlands. It is an idea to pick these up when you see them as they will serve for a multitude of refashioning projects.  

Beads - These I recuperated from beaded cardigans, broken or discarded fashion jewellery, of which I was given a whole bag by kind relatives. Many of these pieces although artificial in themselves actually take on a whole new look, when applied to a different setting. I particularly liked these metal bead holders, which I modified and used as the centre of my fabric flowers. You can buy these bead holders in various designs and of course many other types of bead in bulk on-line. Again, as with the faux jet fringing pictured above some of these beads came from my gift ribboning and garland haul. They were originally threaded onto plastic thread but with the addition of thin ribbon from the golden garland above left and some 'seed pearls' from my Primark cardigan, they took on a whole new life. As with most items in a refashioning project I always try to imagine what they can become rather than what they look like when I buy or upcycle them. As with house purchase in refashioning it is always a question of location, location.

Haberdashery Notions
- One thing that turned up in a 'lucky bag' I purchased a couple of years back from my local fabric shop, was a golden net neckline appliqué for a full petticoat or slip (see images left and above). I decided to use this as the basis of a beaded embellishment to form the 'vase' for my planned appliqué flowers.

Fabrics - As mentioned the background material for the Kokoshnick was an embroidered gold silk remnant from the dress, this was lined with a dull golden lining fabric, again this is easy to purchase on-line. The fabric to make the flowers needs to be artificial otherwise the process I use for curling the petals and giving the flowers shape, will not work. I purchased a half metre of organza and the rest I made up from remnants of lining fabric from my other costume, which was a golden ball gown (link at end of this tutorial). Many pieces of dress lining fabrics end up in the remnant bin, so its worth a search through, as these are eminently suitable for making fabric flowers and come in a whole range of fabulous shades. Small bridal shops, i.e., those that make, refashion or do alterations, are great places for remnants of lining and similar fabric.


It was also in line with the organic nature of the design that the shape of the final Kokoshnik naturally 'grew' from this golden neckline  appliqué. It is sometimes very difficult when starting a hat or headdress design from scratch to imagine exactly what the shape or height should be, so having a 'set piece' as it were to inform on the final look, can sometimes be most useful! I had also discussed with the film's creator what the inspiration behind each costume should be and we had both loved the idea that each should be based on a wild animal, bird or insect, the Faerie Queen was a golden butterfly and I also made many of these to alight on the appliqué flowers I attached to the costume. Yellow gold is not an easy colour to carry off but I think you'll agree that Kerry Browne did this with beauty and éclat.


The Central Motif

Although you will want to create your own central design for your Kokoshnik, in the following I'll share how I made mine because the techniques could be useful. I started by pinning down my golden neckline appliqué onto a piece of linen. This made it easier to see and thus to work on! I then went on to create a ribbon rose on the base and used small glass beads from my beaded cardigan to highlight the edges of the petals and give them more form. I didn't buy any special needles for this, I just found the thinnest gauge one that would thread through the beads I had.  I then highlighted sections of the neckline appliqué with my 'freshwater pearls' and a sprinkling of crystal beads with mounts that could be sewn into the net and sit flat.

Making Ribbon Roses I made three in all on the neckline appliqué. I started by creating a five pointed star in plain gold cotton, which would be invisible beneath the folds of the 'petals'. Then secured the end of my golden ribbon with a glass bead and sewed it to the middle of the star to make a neat start to the centre of the rose. Then threading the other end of the ribbon onto a large eyed needle, I wove it in and out of the points of the star, loosely forming the petals. Before you start it is a good idea to plan out how much ribbon you will need, by just approximating the form of the rose. I finished off the rose by tucking the end underneath the last petal and sewing it down. I then highlighted several petals of the rose with glass beads.

Making the Crown

I had decided that in order to give more height, depth and rigidity to my headpiece, without losing the traditional Kokoshnik shape, I would make a double crown. I used my central motif to create the outline of the outer crown with the inner following the same contour at either side but with a higher curved middle section to support the fabric flowers.

To this end I cut the the outer crown from my iron-on interfacing (left) and fused it to my silk fabric with the aid of an iron and a protective cloth. 

I then cut the silk following the contour of my interfacing leaving a seam allowance of around 1cm or ½". I then tacked this onto the interfacing.

I then followed the same procedure with my second piece of interfacing using a piece of my lining fabric. However, before I tacked it to the interfacing I added a gusset of silk in the middle section of the crown...

...sewing it right sides together to the lining material. I, then went on to sew all the fabric to the interlining. This gave me a fully lined crown (front and back) and a matching silk piece which neatly covered the centrepiece and used the last piece of yellow gold silk that I had!

I was now ready to embellish my outer crown with the central motif, the faux jet fringing and a piece of organza formed into a veil and which matched the flowers which were to be set in the second (inner) crown). I also neatened the ends of the thick gold ribbon which was to be used, as per tradition, to fasten the Kokoshnik on the head.

Making the Fabric Flowers: I have already provided a step-by-step detailed tutorial on how I made the flowers, on my ball gown article, so I will provide the link for this at the end of this post.

Finishing The Construction

The flowers were then added to the golden silk section of the inner crown and the two crown sections were placed wrong sides together, with the ends of the thick silk fastening ribbon sandwiched between them. The Kokoshnik was then sewn together, thus all the stitching with which I had attached the embellishments was on the inside of the Kokoshnik, not only hidden from view but making the headpiece comfortable to wear. To this end I also lined the ribbon rose section of the central motif which would sit on the forehead.


If you are thinking of making this as a bridal headpiece than you might be interested in adding these two very easy accessories which I made to match. These are ribbon bracelets and shoe clips. The latter were again part of my bargain closing down sale haul and comprised two feather wing decorations to which I added two of my home-made fabric flowers.
Or you could just add two matching single feathers - I have plenty after this brilliantly hot Summer, when all the chickens have been in a heavy moult! 

Hope you have enjoyed this and if you did and found it useful then why not share it and or think of joining this or any other of our blogs and youtube channels? I also love getting feedback to please feel free to comment, ask questions and/or share your own experiences in designing and making Kokoshniks.  

Hope to see you next time when I will be making knickers, which are refashioned from brand new, bargain basement, organic T-shirts.

Until then, all the very best from,


Traditional Kokoshnick Design & History

A wonderful eclectic mixture of so many cultures, being influenced by and having influence upon styles of women's folk dress and court fashions throughout the more
Home-made wedding tiara from recuperated items

Home-made jewelled tiara, shoe clips, bracelet and wrap

The materials, a left over scrap of faux fur from a hat I had made. For the crown I used various bits of broken necklaces, beads and buttons recuperated from .. read more

...and for the fabric flower tutorial

Home-made Ball gown, Prom dress, Bridal or Party frock for pennies

Not quite pennies but it's very cheap for what you get, a unique piece of wearable Arts and Craft. Even if you had to buy all the fabric new and off the roll, it would still not cost much more than $ more

© 2016 Sue Cross

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