Birdcage veils — sometimes called net or face veils — have recently become more popular, partially as a consequence of movie and celebrity brides wearing them. Most recently, in 2007, Katherine Heigl wore one in her real-life wedding and Jessica Alba’s character wore a birdcage veil in the movie Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer. While it’s possible to buy birdcage veils, brides on a budget may prefer to make their own.
This veil may be very short — usually just long enough to border the face but will also be eye-length — and typically worn alone, without additional tiers or a separate blusher. Chances are you’ll choose to attach a traditional veil in the back, to a bun or mass of curls. The birdcage is made of coarse-weave French or Russian-style netting rather than typical fine-mesh veil fabrics. Historically, the veil was attached to a hat. The fashionable bride, however, often prefers to wear her birdcage veil and not using a hat. Today, most brides attach this short, circular veil on to their hair with a pin or comb, so that it hangs down around the head. The front serves as a blusher over her face.
Making a Birdcage Veil
Due to the short length and since netting is stiffer than tulle, creating the effect you want when making a birdcage veil will be trickier than when making a regular veil. For that reason, purchase extra netting and plan to make one or two trial runs before the veil is perfect. Also note that the width of the netting would be the length of your veil (from the point where you attach it to your head to the where the veil falls in front of your face).
Materials You will have:
- Up to a few yards of Russian or French netting.
- Two or more hair clips (the sort used to secure hair extensions to short hair are most stable).
- Sturdy thread the color of the netting (button thread works well).
Step 1: Cut 36″ of 9″ French / Russian netting
You can make a relatively full birdcage veil, with many gathers, from a yard of netting. These instructions are for making a relatively full, gathered veil just like Jessica Alba’s in Rise of the Silver Surfer. Cut the netting shorter for a veil that lays closer to your head, with fewer gathers. If in doubt, cut the piece long at first. Then shorten it if you discover that the veil is just too full.
The short, cut ends will be the sides of your veil and the long, finished edges would be the front and back. These instructions explain how to collect the sides and attach them to clips as well as gather the back more loosely than the sides.
Step 2. Sew on two clips, one at each end of the long (finished) edge of veiling.
The clips will go at the front corners of the veil, with the teeth facing the finished edge. The outside, short side of each clip should be parallel to a raw, cut edge. Position them in order that, when worn, the clips’ metal bars will face outward, but remain under the veiling. The clips should curve against your head when closed.
Step 3. Gather the cut sides of the veil and sew them to the clips.
Using a slipknot, attach thread on the corner of a cut edge opposite a clip. Weave the thread in and out of the diamond patterns along the cut edge between the attached end and the clip then thread it through the outlet within the clip.
Pull the thread tight so the entire cut edge is gathered against the clip. Secure to the underside of the clip (the non-bar side, which might be against your head) so the thread might be hidden when you find yourself wearing the veil. You might need to tidy up by clipping off the frayed pieces of netting. One entire side should now be gathered and sewn to a clip.
Repeat on the second side, gathering and sewing the raw edge against the clip.
Step 4. Make the back gathers.
Attach doubled or heavy button thread to the inside edge of a clip. Weave the thread in and out between the diamonds or holes within the netting. Do not secure the thread to the second clip yet. The length of the thread determines how full the gathers and how closely the veil hugs your head. You want to adjust the length of the thread so the veil looks perfect on you.
Step 5. Experiment with different veil widths.
Looking in a mirror, adjust the thread length between clips. When you are happy with your veil’s width and fullness of the gathers, secure the thread by looping it through the inside holes of the second clip and tying it off. With 8″ – 9″ netting, you will need to attach the veil near the highest of your head for it to hit just below the nose. Attach it farther back for a shorter look.
Leave time to practice attaching the veil exactly as you want it, and you’ll appear like a star on your wedding day!