I’m not sure if any of you have noticed, but I have a weird obsession with ruched things. My 1860 Drawn Bonnet is very ruch-ey, my 1780’s Black Hat is very scrunched, and I seem to put a dollop of silk gauze on everything, including the Raspberry Tutu I made in school.

So in my 18th century fever (and excitement for helping out with “An 18th Century Christmas” in McArthur… which I ended up being too sick to go to) I decided I needed some sort of winter accessory, so a calash is what I should make. Ever so practical, huh?

“Drawn by Mifs Calash 1778”

Miss Calash in contemplation, 1780, Lewis Walpole Library

‘What is a Calash?’ you might ask. Well, let me tell you! It’s a type of collapsible bonnet, resembles a “caleche” (carriage en francais) top, and it’s primary purpose– in the 18th century— was to protect ones hairstyle. The stiffening was typically cane (please correct me if I’m wrong, o’ experts!) so the bonnet, like a carriage top, would not actually touch the hair but provide a covering to protect hairstyles that would get really icky in the rain/snow– hair powder + pomatum + wet = ewpaste.

“Gallerie des Modes, 1776” — Dames a la Mode

Sizes, shapes and materials change through the years, but it’s kind of the precursor to the “drawn bonnet.”

The overwhelming majority of extant examples are either black or green, but there is a little evidence that there may have been a few other fashionable colors. I wasn’t looking for a weird color to make my calash, but happened to stumble upon some red-based colors of calashes from various museums.

18th Century Calash, Probably American, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Same calash from above, Metropolitan Museum of Art


The only photo of an 18th century calash from VintageTextiles.com. Listing from a long time ago… Splendid color

“Woman’s Bonnet (Calash)”, 1765-1845, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

The later ones (at least the dates the museums have given them) seem to have cording in the bavolet (aka skirt) and ruffle around the front. Unfortunately I won’t be needing my calash for anything post 1785… I’ll make another one for later time periods.

ca1820 Calash, Metropolitan Museum of Art— Notice the fun cording on the ruffle!?

I’ll go over the construction and finished product in my next post!