1790s Blue Sillk Bonnet

 

Can't you just picture yourself wearing this?

Can’t you just picture yourself wearing this?

This absolutely lovely bonnet has been part of my antique clothing collection for years but I haven’t gotten around to studying it very closely until now. It came on the field trip to Dress University this year and it was great fun to share with the other costume enthusiasts. It likely dates to the 1790s and has much in common with the earlier calash style bonnets.

It's in pretty remarkable condition for being over 200 years old.

It’s in pretty remarkable condition for being over 200 years old.

The primary covering is a brilliant blue plain weave silk – very lightweight. Each of the gathered/shirred area has been stitched flat and strips of cardboard provide the support inside the channels. Buckram is used at the back of the bonnet to give support to the large flat area and there are some signs that a lining may have covered the interior buckram in the past.

Flowers of three varieties adorn the front and one of these days I’ll get around to crafting some samples. The small forget-me-nots are cut from velvet, the large pink roses are made from textured paper (similar to heavy crepe paper) , and the medium flowers have been constructed from linen fabric. All the leaves appear to be silk but I’m still working on closer examination of the stems and more exact construction methods for each element.

I can almost picture this with a 1790's transitional gown but would love to find some contemporary images to be sure about the look.

I can almost picture this with a 1790’s transitional gown but would love to find some contemporary images to be sure about the look.

A pattern might be forthcoming later this summer, but for now I’ll just enjoy this bonny blue bonnet and imagine the stories it has to tell!

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4 thoughts on “1790s Blue Sillk Bonnet

  1. what a curious item! this actually reminds me a lot of an 1850s or 1860s bonnet… the curtain (ruffle at back of neck), and the tip (the flat circle at back, in this case covered with pleated fabric), and especially the placement of flowers are very consistent with bonnets from the mid-19th century. i’ve never seen flower decoration like that on an 18th century bonnet before. plus this one seems to come in much closer to the head than i would expect an 18th century example to. do you think you could share more pictures?

  2. Hi Samantha, I’d be happy to share more photos and will work on taking some new close ups. I agree, it has much in common with mid-19th century bonnets but I have yet to find a really close match for either 1790s or 1850s that would help give a definitive answer. The flowers in the front are unusual for the period but at the same time the shape is a bit too round for some of the 1850s and 60s styles. I’ll also see what I can dig up on provenance from my purchasing notes to see if that offers any leads. Thanks for asking, I’m looking forward to having the excuse for more research!

  3. great, thank you! i would love to see some pictures particularly of the inside, if you get a chance. i’ve shared the images with some folks but we haven’t come up with anything yet… i’m just so intrigued by it, as i’m sure you are! the trim placement is very 1860s, but you’re right, the shape is too round for 1860s. also the ribbons are not as wide as i would expect… so odd!!

    • Great! I’ll let you know as soon as I can get some more photos up – probably this weekend. I’m in the midst of finishing a friend’s wedding dress so won’t have time until after Friday to pull the bonnet back out of its storage box for photos. In the meantime I did send the photos I do have to a contact at the MFA Boston and the Colonial Dames in Boston to see if they had anything comparable (or conversation worthy) and will definitely be posting updates as I hear back.

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