I am in the middle of trimming a Regency-era straw poke bonnet to wear to this Saturday’s Dances of Vice Spring Ball, and I’ve been looking at extant bonnets for inspiration. As always when I’m searching for antique items, I check the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s amazing online searchable collections databases. Here are some of the incredible bonnets I found, dating from 1800- 1840 or so! Click any of the items to be taken to their database page.
First off, we have an amazing poke bonnet from the 1820s, with original trim attached! I love how eclectic and almost post-modern the trim looks, it’s really quite natural and an interesting collection of wild-looking objects. I think the woman who wore this was probably quite fashionable and daring!
I love this next cloth bonnet from 1825. It’s a totally insane shape, like a rooster head! The Met’s database claims that it was quite fashion-forward for its time; I can imagine!
This next bonnet is later, 1835-1849, but it’s an INSANELY gorgeously trimmed straw bonnet. Just look at this color scheme; whoever trimmed this thing was aesethetically advanced! I think we can all agree that this was probably a younger person — look at those bright, cheerful spring colors! And I love the lace bavolet in the back… kind of sassy considering that it’s see-through and you can actually just see the person’s neck underneath…
This one has an interesting shape, dating from 1804-1815:
The next straw bonnet, 1830-1840, from the V&A collections was very likely made by child labor! Ack! Read the interesting description about this bonnet by clicking the links below that will take you to its database page. I do think it’s a good example of the delicate sort of lining that one sees in these types of bonnets:
Here’s an 1845 coal scuttle bonnet that shows the different ways that trimmings and flowers were sometimes attached. They seem to be all over the place for a more organic effect than the colorful bonnet above, where the flowery ornaments are collected near the ears of the wearer:
Here’s another fancy-trimmed bonnet from 1839. Look at this crazy haphazard trimming! It’s almost as complicated as flower arranging.
The last bonnet I will leave you with is actually my favorite. It’s an early example from 1805-1810, and to me it looks like a piece of modern art, or maybe a piece from a Matthew Barney film! Anyway I think it’s incredibly beautiful and elegant even while it looks like you’re wearing a snail shell on your head… amazing.
Maybe at some point, I will make an early regency gown and attempt to create a bonnet like this. I’m not exactly seeing how it creates it’s shape. Maybe there are wires attaching the straw piece underneath, and wire reinforcing alongside the straw bits as well?
Tomorrow — pictures of my finished bonnet (and hopefully, also the regency dress I completed yesterday, which is currently drying out in my shower after being tea-dyed).