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Maureen O’Connor and her proper toppers

Photos: Courtesy of Maureen O’Connor

Maureen O’Connor is a longtime Jane Austen fan, who was featured in the book “Among the Janeites.” She’s known for creating wonderful dresses and bonnets. In fact, at the Jane Austen Summer Program, she’ll present a display showing the progression of making a bonnet from straw hat to finished product. In addition, she is donating some proceeds from a couple of her dresses to the Jane Austen Summer Program. We caught up with her to chat about her work:

How did you get into creating period dresses?

I started sewing when I graduated from high school and needed clothes for work — I went to Catholic school and wore uniforms. I started sewing again back in the 1980s when the American Girl dolls became very popular. I made matching outfits for nieces & friends’ daughters. I did a lot of volunteer work and at a few events offered to make a matching doll/girls outfit  for a silent auction. When I joined JASNA in 2010, the New York chapter was planning the Annual General Meeting and organizing fundraisers, I … offered to make dresses and donate the proceeds to JASNA-AGM. I also have made a number of costumes for Halloween parties for both my husband and me.

Tell us about your hats. 

All my bonnets and turbans & hats are made by me.  My inspiration actually comes from You Tube: Regency Society of Oregon has a tutorial, which was very informative.

Also while attending the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, I attended a lecture by the creator of the turbans for the Dolly Madison Documentary.  He showed how you can turn a simple $2 straw hat from a dollar store or Party City into a number of different style turbans.

 I am fond of my turbans. It is fun to create them from scratch and being able to coordinate with outfits.

How long does it take you to make a hat or turban usually?

Reusing a straw hat for the base only takes about 2 hours or less. Dependingon how much trim and fabrics you are attaching and whether you sew or hot glue the materials onto the base; Turbans and the cloth bonnets do take longer as it involved cutting out a pattern, lining and sewing the pieces together along with making any casings or gathering to adjust size and fit on your head.

Which hat is your favorite? 

I am fond of my turbans.  It is fun to create them from scratch and being able to coordinate with outfits.

How many Jane Austen-related events do you attend?


YIKES —  a lot. In addition to JASNA-NY’s events which include four regional meetings, I also attended two different weekend seminars — one in West Point and the other in Tarrytown, N.Y.    Every year since 2010:  Louisville Jane Austen Festival; AGMs for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014; Box hill picnics with the JASNA of Central New Jersey, Emma Festival in Bloomfield, PA, back in March 2011; 4 different Jane Austen Weekends in Vermont,  2 luncheons and one day long seminar with JASNA of  Eastern Pennsylvania, Jane Austen Book Camp in Connecticut,  Jane Austen Summer Program at Chapel Hill!

Favorite character in “Emma”?

Mr Knightley. I think he is the truest character in all the novels.

What are you forward to most at JASP?

Reconnecting with the wonderful people I have met last year and of course discussing Emma.


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