While most of us associate bonnets with the 19th century and earlier, I remember my mother wearing them in the 1950’s when she had to work outside which was a lot because she picked a lot of cotton back in those days to help the family out. Her bonnet was a slat variety which is to say that it was made of cloth and had rows sewn into the fabric on the sides where wooden slats could be slid into to give the bonnet shape. It stuck out over the forehead in order to shield the face and had draped material across the back to protect the neck. The picture on the right shows what it looked like.
Most frontier women wore poke bonnets that came to be known as prairie bonnets. They were a far cry from what a “Lady of Fashion” would have worn. But frontier women had more things on their minds than fashion. Like getting all the work down and daily survival. Poke bonnets were also made of fabric, usually calico.
Citified women were more discerning in their choice of headwear. They opted for frills and lace and all kinds of things to dress up their bonnets. But even so, the bonnet was an essential part of their wardrobe. Women, like men, never went outdoors without something on their head. It just wasn’t done.
The following bonnets are used with permission from a wonderful site called Victorian Bonnets at http://www.victorianbonnets.com/ . If you get a chance to go over there you’ll find plenty of things to interest you, especially if you’re a writer and need to know what a lady would’ve worn in a particular year. Pamela Robles couldn’t be more gracious or helpful. She also makes bonnets for anyone who needs to dress authentic.
To the left is a white wedding bonnet and a straw and silk cottage bonnet. Very pretty.
As you can see some are plain and some are very fancy. Some are serviceable and some are a fashion statement to be admired. And this is just a drop in the bucket to what’s available on the website. There are tons more.
So, what is your favorite? What would you most likely have worn had you lived back then?
It’s a little sad that we don’t wear bonnets any longer. I could sure see myself in some of these.