Bonnets Anyone?



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 . 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.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

24 thoughts on “Bonnets Anyone?”

  1. Linda, I didn’t know there were so many different types of bonnets. They were practical and yet feminine. I own a poke bonnet which I wear on occasion. They’re great for windy days.

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. Linda, I’m one of those who doesn’t like to wear hats–too hot. But these are feminine and pretty. My favorite above is the one with feathers. I’ve always wanted a huge picture frame hat like Dolly Levi wore in Hello Dolly.

  3. Linda,

    Thanks so much for the information on bonnets and the website. I’m always looking for great sites on clothing while I write.

    I love the bonnet with the yellow flowers. It’s a sweet bonnet, and one I’d have had for Sunday and special occasions if I lived back then.


  4. Margaret……’re up awfully early, lady. If the early bird gets the worm then you certainly have it. Glad you enjoyed my blog. I was surprised too that there were so many different styles of bonnets. And I didn’t know that the thing distinguishing bonnets from hats are is the strings that tied under the lady’s chin.

    Wow, I didn’t know many people still wore bonnets in this day and age. How neat that you have one and that you actually wear it.

  5. Hi Tracy………glad you enjoyed my blog. It was fun writing it. I learned a lot about bonnets. Yes, the one you mentioned is really pretty and elegant. It was probably worn for important social occasions. That gets me thinking….I wonder how many hats a woman in the 1800’s owned. I’ll bet some had one for every occasion. I think my favorite is the yellow one with the yellow and purple ribbon on it.

  6. Hi Kirsten………glad you stopped by and I’m tickled that you enjoyed my bonnets. There so many on that site I mentioned that it was very difficult to choose which ones to bring to our readers. The straw bonnet with the yellow flowers you mentioned looks like it would’ve been worn for Easter. It is very pretty and feminine.

  7. Great find, Linda. I’ve bookmarked that site. I’ve always been partial to the simpler bonnets. I like the one with the green ribbon. I also like the straw bonnets as opposed to the cloth ones. They aren’t as practical in keeping the sun off, but they sure are pretty.

  8. I went over to the Victorian Bonnets site and it is wonderful. My favorites were in the 1850 to 1860 section as well as the mourning and wedding bonnets. She does lovely work. Of the ones you show here, I like the top right one and the wedding bonnet.
    I have a few poke bonnets we got for our girls when they were little. I also made some for our daughter when she was working the chuckwagon unit at summer camp and had to dress in pioneer clothes. The same daughter is now into Civil War reenacting. I bought a pattern for period headgear but haven’t yet started. There is a lot of work involved. The Victorian Bonnet site is an inspiration. I can check back to it for ideas or if really desperate, order one.

    Thanks for the post and the link to Victorian Bonnets.

  9. Linda, thanks for a great blog. I love it, plus appreciate the the resource/research info. I didn’t realize there were as many bonnets for so many different purposes. Thanks for giving us some great information. Hugs, P

  10. Fun post Linda! I probably would have worn one of the more practical bonnets or rebelled and wore none at all. I prefer hats and living in the old west, I probably could have gotten away with it. 🙂 There are some pretty amazing bonnets here though–a lot of work some of those would have taken.

  11. I am one of those gals who does not wear bonnets well. It’s because I have a small head.. Yes this is true. It was confirmed by my hairdresser when she was trying to find a cap small enough to do my highlights… So I would have drowned in most of these styles, same the one witht he high brim maybe… I would most defiently had to have mine custome made…
    So Hats off to you ladies who can wear a bonnett..

  12. Hi Karen W………..glad you enjoyed my post. And yes the bonnet link is excellent for research. There are so many things there. She’s working on putting up other things in addition to the bonnets. I agree about the straw hats. They are very pretty just not very functional. But then, they weren’t mean to be practical. They were designed for beauty.

    I loved Short Straw Bride! It’s a really good book. Meri and Travis are so right for each other. And there are quite a few humorous scenes that allow your sense of humor to come through. Very nicely done.

    Wishing you lots of luck with winning the RITA.

  13. Hi Patricia B……….Thanks for coming by to comment. I’m glad the link to the bonnets was helpful to you. Hopefully, you can get some tips on how to make your own bonnets. How neat that your daughter is into Civil War reenactments. I’ve always thought that would be fun. Have a wonderful day!

  14. Hi Phyliss………Glad you liked my blog. Bonnets seem to be generating a lot of interest. I wish hats and bonnets would come back. I think it would be wonderful to return to the glory and beauty of the 1800’s when women took pains to look feminine. Today’s woman throws on jeans or shorts and a t-shirt and heads out the door. I’m as guilty as anyone. Who knows where fashion will be in the next fifty years. Be interesting to see.

    Looking forward to seeing you on Friday. We’re going to have ourselves an adventure.

  15. Hi MK……….Glad you stopped by and looked at my bonnets. I’m wondering when the practice of wearing bonnets stopped. I love the fashion statements of the nineteenth century. Women took pains with their appearance and yet they managed to take care of kids, wash, iron, cook, plant a garden, and the list goes on. There was little free time to be had back then.

    Have a wonderful day!

  16. Hi Kathleen……….you’re not the only one who can’t wear bonnets or hats. My head is an okay size but I just look really stupid in a hat. Never wore one, not even a baseball cap. I really look like a dork. I’ve always wished I could wear things like bonnets though. And you’re not alone in having trouble finding things that fit. I have a hard time with pants and jeans. Can’t find many long enough. I’m a tall gal with long legs.

    Wishing you a very enjoyable day.

  17. I would wear any of the bonnets, in fact I have an OLD Prarie Bonnet that my Mother in Law wore when she hung clothes on the line and she said it belonged to her mother. I have neverliked hats on me but I love that old bonnet.

  18. What a fabulous post, Linda! I have stories in my head just looking at those glorious bonnets! I love how most bonnets protect the back of the neck, too. My daughter had some precious bonnets when she was little. Sigh. I wish hats were still the fashion. I got a darling Kate Middleton-esque “fascinator” for the high tea we held for my niece’s bridal shower…and I managed to wear it on Easter to church, but that’s about all the use it’ll get, I fear.

    I did wear a very cute straw big-brimmed hat when we went wine-tasting in wine country the other day, and I wear either my straw cowgirl hat or “Cabela’s” ball cap with the embroidered yellow Lab on it at the horse rescue, but that’s about all my hat stories. In Marrying Minda, she was a milliner and I had such fun “describing” the masterpieces she made.

    Ah, I feel like dressing up right now but sadly, am off to have my car services.

    Good job, filly sister! xoxox

  19. Hi Connie……..I hope you hold onto that old bonnet. That’s a real treasure. I wish I still had the slat bonnet that my mama wore so much when I was growing up. I never realized how much her belongings meant to me until after she was gone.

    Have a very good day!

  20. Hi Tanya………I think I saw a picture of you on Facebook recently in that big brim straw hat you were talking about. It was so pretty on you. You should wear hats all the time.

    Yes, I can only imagine how much fun you had with your milliner-heroine in Marrying Minda. Sadly, I never think to put hats on my characters until long after I finish writing the stories. I’m going to make an extra effort to do that in my next one.

    Hope you got your car serviced all right.

  21. Hope I’m not too late. Love all the pictures of the bonnets. Will have to check out the web site. I have always loved hats and I’m sad that they aren’t worn too much any more. My fave of the ones you showed is the all white one at the top of the blog. No fancy flowers or such. Just plain and white. But the style is my favorite.
    Great blog, gal.

  22. Hi Mary J………You’re never too late to drop by and leave a comment. Glad you enjoyed my bonnets blog. I just wish I’d have had more room. I had so many images to use that I didn’t get to show. I’m like you. I wish the wearing of bonnets hadn’t died away. I do think they add beauty to a woman and that extra bit of femininity.

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