Monday, September 10, 2012

Bonnet of a Different Color ...

Sometime ago a friend of mine has asked me to make her an 18th century bonnet. We are still working out the details as far as color and trim but I'm pretty sure it will be made of black silk as black was by far the most common color.

That being said, let's take a look at bonnets and color variations in the 18th century. There are several examples of bonnets on the 18th Century Notebook, and also at Dames a la Mode. I think most people will be familiar with the example in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg. That black silk bonnet, so far, is the only known 18th century bonnet that survives. In this post I would like to show some images of bonnets that will hopefully be less familiar to people. I always get excited when I come across new sources or period images.

The image below by Daniel Chodowiecki is one of the earliest known images of a bonnet.

'A Lady Standing' by Daniel Chodowiecki, 1758

 'Returning from the Market' Adriaan de Lelie, 1795

'A Market Scene' by Francis Wheatley, 1770s
I'm in love with this print which I think is from The Lewis Walpole Library. Look at that huge bonnet! This print has some other lovely details as well. Note the spotted handkerchief and print on her gown. It looks as though her shoes might have a contrasting binding too.  :)

Another HUGH black bonnet.

Of course, not all black bonnets were completely black. Sometimes you see them with trim in a contrasting color.  Blue, pink, and white are just a few examples I've seen in period prints.

The French Macaroni Led Astray - black with contrast trim
The Beautiful Fruit Gatherer, 1782 - black with blue trim.

Occasionally you will see white bonnets. Miss Palmer by Joshuah Reynolds is one a lovely example. Other examples of a white or light colored bonnet can be see in The Fortune Teller  and The Fair Quaker. Also see The Young Mendicant.

Miss Palmer by Joshuah Reynolds, 1780
Here are a few interesting color combinations.

Charles Bretherton, 1782, via the British Museum
From Cristies, 1770s

Below is another example of a green bonnet from the Lewis Walpole Library. At Rev War events I often see this one lady with an enormous green bonnet made from emeroid green silk. I don't know who she is but her bonnet is to die for!
This print is called Cat in Pattens. Cute, isn't she?
You sometimes see blue worn by children. The little girl below wears a blue bonnet with the wide brim and simple bow. She is also wearing a nice example of a check handkerchief.

This is a much later image, dating to the 1790s that shows a little girl in a pink bonnet.

Even with all the above examples, and there are others out there I'm sure, black bonnets were still the most common in the 18th century. They show up the most in period advertisements, writings, and in art work. One should take into account an artist's freedom in adding color to prints.

There is a great article about bonnets on the Hive website written by Sue Felshin.


  1. Emily, you have finally met the lady with the enormous emerald green silk bonnet! I've been scrolling through your blog tonight :D.
    -Kristel (Molly)

  2. It was so nice to meet you at last! LOVE your bonnet. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...