Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 6   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Sun bonnets  (Read 31456 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« on: January 15, 2007, 01:25:16 PM »

As promised, I will 'wax poetic' about sun bonnets. Rhymes not required I hope. ;->

Sun bonnets served a variety of purposes. The first was that of modesty, as a *respectable* woman never went out of doors in public bareheaded. (Sorry, those fluffy lace, ribbon &/or net caps don't count for out of doors head wear. Keep them indoors or at least under your fly.)

The other functions specific to sun bonnets were the obvious purpose of keeping the sun off the wearer's face, but also, at least in the early and mid century, was to keep the sun off the upper back and shoulders of their dresses as dyes were still far more susceptible to sun fading than most dyes are today. It was much cheaper and easier to replace a sun faded bonnet than it was to replace a whole dress. In order to offer the needed sun protection for both face and dress, the brims needed to be very deep and the curtains very long. The shortest curtains typically seen covered the shoulders at least to the dropped armscye, with many examples coming almost down to the woman's elbows!

The methods used to keep the deep brims stiff changed over time. Corded bonnetswere the most typical during the 1850s (I've not researched them any earlier.) Multiple rows of cording, usually done in groups with spaces in between, kept the brims stiff enough to hold the brims away from the wearer's face, but it wasn't strong enough to carry the weight of the curtain as well. As a result, on most corded sun bonnets the curtain starts back about where the jaw curves forward, in front of the ear. The brim itself comes straight down to about the jaw line then curves back sharply and extends back at least a few inches past where the curtain starts.
This is very different from the "Holly Hobby" sun bonnets some merchants still sell with solidly stiff brims with a continuous curve from top front to about the ear where a short curtain starts. This is style sun bonnet dates to the 20th century as far as I can determine.

By the 1860s pasteboard or cardboard was readily available and strips of the same started being used to support the brims of sun bonnets. Slat style sun bonnets soon became much more common, especially in the more commercialized North with easier access to cardboard. There are extant photographs of Southern women in slat bonnets (think of the famous refugee woman in front of the over loaded wagon), but corded bonnets appear to have been more common there than in the North during the war.

One advantage of slat bonnets was that they were (and are) faster to make, depending on how many rows of cording or slats one uses. The big advantage though is the stiffening power of slats over cords. Because of that, the curtains on slat bonnets extend straight gown from the front edge of the brim instead of being notched back as is typical of corded bonnets.

The amount of fullness in the back of both style of sun bonnets was basically the same. Full enough to accommodate the size buns or looped braids women wore low at the back of the head during this period, without being too excessive. Much later styles of sun bonnets tended to use rows of stitching holding together layers of stiff materials for the brims, but even those with slats or cords had a much fuller back, which tended to puff up and around the brim rather than the more restrained style of the mid century.

Sun bonnets are still viewed by many reenactors to be only appropriate for a working class impression, but photographs and written references make it clear that sun bonnets were worn for a wide variety of occasions, including 'Sunday go to meeting', at least in rural and smaller towns the period. (i.e. where the majority of the population still lived.)

Because sun bonnets required minimal fabric and comparatively little time to make, most women who wore them probably had more than one at any given time. A very plain one of sturdy fabric was probably used for doing outdoor chores such as tending the kitchen garden, etc., on most days. She may well have another plain one of much thinner, lighter fabric for doing those same chores during hot weather. The number of silk and fine wool slat corded bonnets, with carefully done ruching or ruffles, as well as similar ones of fine printed cotton make it clear sun bonnets were "not just for work anymore." I also have a number of white semi-sheer "barred muslin" corded sun bonnets that would not be amiss at a country "meeting house."

Sun bonnets were ideal for rural women who didn't feel the need, or have access to, fancy 'citified' frame or straw bonnets. They were made at home, they didn't go out of fashion and most important of all, they kept the sun off their faces on the walk or ride into town without resorting to an expensive and frivolous parasol. Also, if any of you have tried to use a parasol consistently enough to totally avoid getting any extra color in your face while juggling parcels, chasing children or dealing with any of the other uses one has for one's hands at events, you can understand why sun bonnets were so widely worn by women who spent more time out of doors than the 'ladies of leisure' who lived in cities or large towns. (whew! How's that for a run on sentence! ;->)

Sun bonnets came in a wide variety of colors and fabrics. With the exception of one white silk one I've only heard of, but not seen, the sun bonnets I own and the ones I have seen so far made of silk and or wool have all tended to be in dark colors, especially black for silk sun bonnets. Wool gauze or barege was a popular fabric for slat bonnets, with shades of brown and dark green being popular, at least among the extant ones I've seen. Woven check was common for the very plain "work" style slat bonnets, with a wide range of prints in medium to light colors being very popular for the mid range style of sun bonnets. And don't forget the many white, semi-sheer cotton sun bonnets. (BTW, I am currently on the lookout for more cotton voile with delicate checks or lines woven into it in case anyone finds any. I found a small quantity some time ago at a very reasonable price, but that stash is long gone. ;-<)

In addition to these styles of sun bonnets there were a few other styles available as well. I have what I think of as a 'hybrid' bonnet in my collection. It is shaped like the corded sun bonnets typical of the 1850s, but the brim is wired around the front edge like a frame bonnet and the brim fabric is gathered over canes like a drawn bonnet instead of being sewn smoothly over cords.

The "Shaker" style bonnet was also being worn since at least the 1850s. The bonnets were made by the Shakers and sold to the "World's people" (non Shakers) They are shaped much like the deep brimmed, straight toward the front frame bonnets of the 1840s, but with long, dress-protecting curtains. The curtains were generally attached in the set-back manner of corded bonnets. They were made of fine woven straw that was pleated and molded at the back to form the bulge typical of all bonnet styles of the period, to accomodate the bun at the back of the head. Like fabric sun bonnets, they could be dressed up or down depending on the fabric used in the curtain and what, if any, trim was added to the outside of the bonnet.

Reproductions of Shaker bonnets are available today, but they are of coarse braided and sewn straw rather than the fine woven straw of the period. That puts us back to what the Watchdog calls the 'best available solution." The shape is right, the materials are marginal at best. Isn't that an all too typical situation for most aspects of recreating the material culture of the period? ;-> We just have to keep looking for the best available solutions for everything we want and we make our own personal compromises when we can't find or create exactly what we want or need.

So, even if you are portraying a woman who routinely wears hoops, but you can't afford a frame or straw bonnet, you have trouble dealing with the sun without sun glasses and can't afford or don't want to bother with carrying a parasol, you can still, very accurately wear a delicately made sun bonnet for a fraction of the cost. "Such a deal, one shouldn't pass up!" :-)

Glenna Jo
Logged
bevinmacrae
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3087


« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2007, 04:09:29 PM »

Wow! What great information! Do you know of any extant corded bonnets made of patterned sheer cotton? I have a bit of it left over from some sheer gowns and was going to make a few sunbonnets out of it.
~bevin
Logged

Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
www.gcv.org
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2007, 04:52:02 PM »

I've not personally seen patterned sheer sun bonnets, but considering the tiny sample I've seen, and the many I have seen of printed opaque cotton, I certainly wouldn't question a patterned sheer. Heck, I've made a number of printed sheer sun bonnets myself. They have been very popular. I just wish I could find more period appropriate sheer prints...

Glenna Jo Christen
Logged
Nona Nelson
Guest
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2007, 06:27:40 PM »

Hello Glenna!
Do you think you can post pictures of some of your orginal sun bonnets? I'd love to see some!
Logged
Anna Worden Bauersmith
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3611



WWW
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2007, 07:09:41 AM »

Of course, Glenna Jo Caught me attention with the mention of straw Shaker bonnet.
Here are a few examples of how fine woven and plait straw would have been:

These two bonnets are similar to what Glenna Jo writes about. The shape is very simple. The straw is nicely woven.
http://www.mfa.org/collections/search_art.asp?coll_keywords=shaker+bonnet

This might be the closest to resembling the bonnet she talkes about:
http://www.equinoxantiques.com/detail/SB104

This example is more shaped than the ones Glenna Jo mentions. It is also made of plait rather than woven straw. http://www.strawartmuseum.org/hats_tour4.htm

Here are a few more from auction sites. I don't know how long they will be up.
http://www.willishenry.com/auctions/04/shaker04/images/13%20bonnet.jpg
http://www.willishenry.com/auctions/04/shaker04/images/238%20bonnet.jpg
http://www.willishenry.com/sh93-95.jpg (look on the table)
http://www.willishenry.com/shaker2003.htm (all the way to the bottom on the right.)


Anna
Logged

Anna Worden Bauersmith
http://annaworden.wordpress.com/
Straw & Winter Millinery - Available on Etsy
Fanciful Utility: Victorian Sewing Cases & Needle-books
From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2007, 10:06:47 AM »

Thanks for the Shaker bonnet links. They are all wonderful examples of true Shaker style bonnets, except for the one from the Straw Museum. That one is a lovely example of an 1840s straw bonnet. The slight flare to the brim and the very modest straw curtain, along with the fact it is plaited and stitched rather than woven straw discount it as a true Shaker bonnet. Wearing a bonnet like that in the 1860s probably would have caused a similar response that wearing a double knit pant suit would today. (My mother doesn't even wear them anymore... we took them all away from her some years ago. ;->)

As for other sun bonnets in my collection, I will have to make some time and photograph them. As ADD as I am, I'm not sure how soon that will be I'm afraid. A bit of private (in my own mail box, not on the forum) nagging wouldn't hurt. ;->

Glenna Jo Christen
Logged
Anna Worden Bauersmith
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3611



WWW
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2007, 12:00:44 PM »

I just reread what I wrote next to each link. I should have taken more time in what I was writing. I wanted the bonnet from the straw museum to point out how fine plait straw could actually be. I like the 1840's image from the straw museum because it shows that nice close-up of the plait. So, yes, the bonnet from the Straw Museum isn't a Shaker.

Wearing a bonnet like that in the 1860s probably would have caused a similar response that wearing a double knit pant suit would today.

I am sure you mean the shape would greatly date a person rather than the plait itself. As plait was the more popular mode of straw bonnet making through the century. But only a fraction of those would fall under the sunbonnet catagory.

Anna
Logged

Anna Worden Bauersmith
http://annaworden.wordpress.com/
Straw & Winter Millinery - Available on Etsy
Fanciful Utility: Victorian Sewing Cases & Needle-books
From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet
bevinmacrae
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3087


« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2007, 06:24:50 PM »

Those shakers remind me of the covers on Amish buggies! They are really cute, but I think I'd need a seeing eye-dog to get around with one on! I suppose the point was to remain secluded from the world inside the bonnet?

I am very happy with the two corded sheers I have made. I would like people to take a gander at them as I don't think I got the "indent" thing that Glenna Jo was tallking about. Mine just go straight down at the sides. I'll post pics tommorrow.
~bevin
Logged

Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
www.gcv.org
bevinmacrae
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3087


« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2007, 11:43:29 AM »

Please comment: here are the new corded sunbonnets! It's hard to tell from the photos, but they are quite sheer. I havn't starched them really good, just spray starch right now, but they seem to be holding their own.

http://s136.photobucket.com/albums/q178/canardverte/?action=view&current=cordedsunbonnetstripe1.jpg

http://s136.photobucket.com/albums/q178/canardverte/?action=view&current=cordedsunbonnetstripe2.jpg

http://s136.photobucket.com/albums/q178/canardverte/?action=view&current=cordedsunbonnetpeach3.jpg

http://s136.photobucket.com/albums/q178/canardverte/?action=view&current=cordedsunbonnetpeach2.jpg

I havn't yet put ties on them either. They are very light. I can't belive they will prevent sunburn (they are so sheer) but I'll be testing it out this summer! Please comment as I'd like to make a couple more for gifts and for our loaner kit.
~bevin
Logged

Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
www.gcv.org
BarbaraSmith
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 6106

I'm clueless, but competitive! ~ Trish Roseburg


« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2007, 03:43:05 PM »

BRAVO GLENNA JO!  Grin[/glow]


Okay, I know it's "Brava" but I couldn't resist the rhyme!

Finally read this all the way through. And, of course, have questions....

Having already given up my "best available" Shaker bonnet due to EVERYONE at Fort Nisqually copying it... grrr.... I'm interested in pursuing a "nicer" cloth sunbonnet. Is there a commercial pattern you would recommend? Or a freebie online?  Grin

I have a nice slat bonnet I bought sometime ago from Stevenson House (Sob! I miss that girl!). It's a "homespun" check and I wear it for my working impressions. I have seen pictures of working English women and rural Southern American women wearing very similar bonnets as early as the 18-teens. Do you think those bonnets were actually corded bonnets, and not slat bonnets?

And, if you can tell those shakers that Anna posted are pleated and woven vs. sewn plait, you have better eyesight than I! They all looked like braid to me... I suppose I'm now down to having to feel things... sigh... Braille and the Blind Reenactor....  Wink

LOL,
Auntie B
Logged

Auntie B says: "I may look like Aunt Pitty-Pat, but I have the soul of Belle Watling," and "Since I can't be a good example, then I'm just gonna have to be a horrible warning."
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2007, 07:32:19 PM »

I haven't yet put ties on them either. They are very light. I can't believe they will prevent sunburn (they are so sheer) but I'll be testing it out this summer! Please comment as I'd like to make a couple more for gifts and for our loaner kit.
Quote

The cording work looks wonderful! Nice spacing etc. You also have nice long curtains as well. I've not worn a sheer corded sun bonnet as yet, only slat bonnets (where the card board slats offer great sun protection)  so I don't know how much sun protection they will offer. The originals I have are at least double layered in the brim of course so that should help. I don't know how long a woman actually spent in the sun wearing the delicate sheer ones. After all, they were no fool, they did the outdoor work either early in the morning before the sun got too hot and more likely to burn... unlike we reenactors who spend almost all our time at events out in all weathers. ;->
If you are planning to make more sun bonnets, I would suggest trying the notch back effect to take the weight off the front of the brim. One humid day and those brims will wilt in a heartbeat. I've even had slats droops slightly, ;->
One very minor point. When using stripes, try to keep the stripes all going in the same direction as much as possible. While they didn't seem to have a problem wearing a bonnet with plaid ties with a dress of a totally different plaid, they did seem to like their stripes to line up as much as possible.... Go figure! ;->

Glenna Jo Christen (who needs to photograph some of my sun bonnets...)
Logged
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2007, 07:51:46 PM »


Having already given up my "best available" Shaker bonnet due to EVERYONE at Fort Nisqually copying it... grrr.... I'm interested in pursuing a "nicer" cloth sunbonnet. Is there a commercial pattern you would recommend? Or a freebie on-line?  Grin

I think Miller's Millinery has a slat bonnet pattern. I've been asked if I would consider either making a pattern or even a kit for my slat bonnets. I just haven't gotten my act together to write the directions for it. It is so much easier to do it than tell someone else how to do it. Call me stupid, but I would rather hand sew them myself and charge $38 than go through all the work of writing directions...

Quote
I have seen pictures of working English women and rural Southern American women wearing very similar bonnets as early as the 18-teens. Do you think those bonnets were actually corded bonnets, and not slat bonnets?

As they are illustrations not photographs it may be harder to tell which they are. There is at least one sun bonnet Vicki Betts saw from Texas that has a brim stiffened with newspapers that are pasted together. She wasn't sure if they got stuck together over time or if they were intentionally glued together at the time, but the papers she could read were from the early 1840s.  I suspect there were a variety of methods used to stiffen brims. Cording and slats are the two most common methods I have been able to document for the 1850s and '60s.

Quote
And, if you can tell those shakers that Anna posted are pleated and woven vs. sewn plait, you have better eyesight than I! They all looked like braid to me... I suppose I'm now down to having to feel things... sigh... Braille and the Blind Reenactor....  Wink

LOL! If you've seen an original flat woven Shaker bonnet, it is much easier to recognize it in a photograph so it isn't just your eyes I'm sure. As for me, I have to take my glasses Off to read or see details while my husband has to put his on. Between the two of us we have, in theory, one good pair of eyes. ;-)

Glenna Jo Christen (who hopes she finally figured out how the quotes system works...)
Logged
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2007, 08:30:24 PM »

A friend of mine sent me this link to a series of photos of a sheer corded sun bonnet. I am happy to report that the curtain on this one comes all the way to the front of the brim. I am Sooo glad I didn't say they never were made this way. Wink

http://entertainment.webshots.com/album/7488086nGXLFcbcDl

This is at least a start on my plans to photograph some of the sun bonnets in my collection. ;->

Glenna Jo Christen
Logged
BarbaraSmith
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 6106

I'm clueless, but competitive! ~ Trish Roseburg


« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2007, 10:21:23 PM »

Who IS Duchess Martin? We keep talking about her sunbonnet. Is she a writer on another forum? Is this an original sunbonnet, or did she create it?

Thanks!
B.
Logged

Auntie B says: "I may look like Aunt Pitty-Pat, but I have the soul of Belle Watling," and "Since I can't be a good example, then I'm just gonna have to be a horrible warning."
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2007, 12:14:58 AM »

Duchess Martin (her real name BTW) put up pictures on a photo web page of an original sun bonnet that belongs to a mutual friend of ours, Robin Schwartz. (click on the link in the prior post) It is a sheer white corded bonnet. It is made of one of the most popular fabrics I've seen for white sun bonnets. It has fine white checks woven in. The size of the checks varied widely in the period, but all sizes were popular for caps, sun bonnets, infant dresses, etc.

Glenna Jo Christen
Logged
Carolann Schmitt
Senior Research
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 4276


WWW
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2007, 07:07:56 AM »

Hi, Glenna -

I also have two or three original slat bonnets that have the curtain going all the way to the front of the brim. One has a very nifty T-shape construction with the curtain on the sides cut in one piece with the brim, then a second curtain section that goes around the back of the bonnet.


Bevin -

I'll second Glenna's comment about stripes going in the same direction. Even though these are simple garments, matching the pattern seemed to be a concern for most sewists. The same holds true for plaids; they would be matched at the most obvious points - in this case along the front edges.

Regards
Carolann
Logged

Carolann Schmitt - Only a historian understands how much you need to know in order to recognize how much you don't know. - Elizabeth Ann Coleman
cschmitt@genteelarts.com
www.genteelarts.com
bevinmacrae
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3087


« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2007, 07:11:51 AM »

That's the one I found before your post was up! It was really easy to copy! Thanks for the comments. I have more of that stripe stuff and the next one I make from it will have all the stripes going the same direction (though I kind of like the goofy juxtiposition of opposite ways!) In the stripe I used a double layer of the sheer fabric for the brim, but was finding it hard to insert the cords. So in the peach I had the sheer fabric and then a slightly thicker white cotton underneath. Gave it a bit more body and was much easier to cord. Maybe that will provide more sun protection?

It's seeming more and more to me that these "dressy" sunbonnets were worn kind of like the fashion bonnet of the frontier. Not really for sunprotection, but more for church and social functions. Slats probably would have been worn for the hard work (wilting problems with cordeds?) anybody have any thoughts on the actual use and function of these bonnets? My thinking is that the slats were so, well, you are deffinately in your own world there, which is good for getting hard work done, while the cordeds make you more accessible to other people b/c they are more flexible, therefor could be worn in more social situations. Safer to cross the street in. But I actually have really no clue, so I'm just guessing here! I just have a thing for headwear I guess. Always had since i was a little kid!
~bevin
Logged

Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
www.gcv.org
Glenna Jo Christen
Guest
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2007, 10:07:59 AM »

Carolann...
I know my original post was very long, but in it I explained that slat bonnets typically have curtains that attach in a straight line down from the brim. All of the ones in my collection are made that way--many are even part of the brim. The notch back curtain is something I see most typically see on corded bonnets, but as pointed out in the example to which I posted the link, some corded sun bonnets did have curtains that came right to the edge of the brim.

I just need to learn to use fewer words and make my thoughts clearer. ;-)

Glenna Jo Christen
Logged
BarbaraSmith
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 6106

I'm clueless, but competitive! ~ Trish Roseburg


« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2007, 10:22:19 AM »

Okay, so at the risk of being redundant - I know it's in the earlier thread, but we ARE sort of creating an archive particularly about sunbonnets here - how does one copy the Duchess Martin sunbonnet? Did someone draft a pattern sheet, maybe?  Grin Is there a DVD one can rent?  Grin

LOL,
B.

Logged

Auntie B says: "I may look like Aunt Pitty-Pat, but I have the soul of Belle Watling," and "Since I can't be a good example, then I'm just gonna have to be a horrible warning."
bevinmacrae
Scribblor Infinitus
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 3087


« Reply #19 on: January 18, 2007, 11:32:18 AM »

Um, well, I jsut looked at it and made it up! Well, not exactly. Measure from the right side of your chin, up to the top of your head, and back down to the left side of your chin. That's how long I made the brim. To get the width, I measured the depth of my head, from my forhead to well behind my ears. Then I added about 3" or so to make a nice, sun-sheilding brim. So you cut a rectangle with those measurements (allow for seams) and then I cut a very slight angle on the ends, making the brim like a trapazoid. The widest part is in the front while the thinnest is at the back, where the crown would be attached. Cut two layers for the brim. Make cord channels, put cord in. To make side curtains I cut rectangles that were as long as I wanted the curtain and a little wider than the brim. I enclosed cord in the tops of those and gathered them a little by the cords. Then I stitched them just under the cord to the brim sides. For the crown, I measured how long the curtain was, and then added half of the brim length, plus a little extra for seams, etc. I made it at least 10" wide for poofyness. Leave the bottom part staright and make the top a horseshoe shape. I corded the edge of the top, gathered with the cord, and stitched that to the narrow side of the brim. To make it gather in at the nape of the neck, I put a caseing of the fabric across the crown peice before cording and gathering. When it's sewn, I just put a little tape in the casing and drew it up. Needs ties still.
Whew, um, I think this is probaly more confusing than helpful, and may not be accurrate. This is just the way I copied the bonnet.
~bevin
Logged

Bevin MacRae

"Inspiring excitement and curiosity about the past!"
www.gcv.org
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 6   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines