So, I wanted to focus on something in our shop that’s not being widely made right now and we, at the Virgil’s Hats & Fine Goods, are proud to say we debuted these lovelies at the Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove this year!

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Here we are modeling the (L-R) Trimmed, Chocolate colored, and wheat colored bonnets.

When choosing a hat for warmer weather, it’s hard to decide between something “pretty” versus “functional” with the choices that most living historians have.  With what’s generally available at most sutlers- Warm weather presents us with the only options of  a “chip straw” hat/bonnet or a silk covered hat/bonnet. Silk doesn’t breath, and chip straw is more fit for a lower-class impression- which isn’t always what we’re going for.

ENTER THE SHEER STRAW/HORSEHAIR BONNET:

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You’ve seen a few movies with these types of bonnets present in them and you might have thought “That’s too pretty to be historically accurate” or “surely they wouldn’t have had something that decorative” but you would be wrong! There are numerous textual examples of woven horsehair or straw bonnets being used and taxed in the early United States from the 1780’s-on.

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Excerpt from “A Collection of all the Statutes Now in Force, Relating to the Revenues and Officers of Great Britain and the Plantations” Vol 2, Pg 4, 1780.

AND there are quite a few extant pieces in various museums along with a few references to them made in fashion plates. (see images below)  This is a style that has many terms and can often be confusing-  “capote” “leghorn” “coal scuttle” “poke bonnet” are all terms I’ve seen associated with this shape:  generally narrow all the way through and slightly elongated to the back. This was a very popular shape in headwear (caps, hats, bonnets) as well as hairstyles from 1797-1808. These styles are said to have emerged because of the early 19th century “discovery” of new ancient Greek and Roman artifacts- and fashion emulates whatever is exciting!

Comparison of our sheer bonnets to the extant piece,
Woven Horsehair and Straw Bonnet, Ca 1805-1820, Litchfield Historical Society

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“…balloon bonnet of wicker…” July 1796, Heidelhoff, The Gallery of Fashion. Image from Bunka Fashion College

A sheer bonnet offers a delicate and light option for those who want a more refined look while still having some sun protection with your headwear.What’s also great about a sheer bonnet is you can line it with interesting colors- or leave it unlined- depending on your taste!

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Joanna, my business partner, is a wizard at millinery and made these beautiful pieces now for sale in our shop suitable for 1790s thru 1820s! We modeled them at JAF2016 and are now available for purchase. These are made with antique/vintage straws that are extremely hard to find. We hope you like them as much as we do!

(We will have more bonnet shapes, like the tall poke bonnets and maybe even 1860s spoon bonnets made out of these gorgeous straw & horsehairs available in our shop in the near future!… keep checking the shop for new listings)

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