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Welcome to the worlds greatest guide to Women's Bonnets.

A bonnet is any of a wide variety of headgear from the Middle Ages to the present day. Similar to the word hat or cap, the word bonnet can describe a wide assortment of headwear.  The word is most often used for a hat with soft material and lacking a brim.

Women's Bonnets

Bonnet derives from the same word in French, where it originally indicated a type of material. In the 21st century, only a few kinds of headgear are still called bonnets, most commonly those worn by babies.

In the mid-17th and 18th century house bonnets worn by women and girls were generally brimless headcoverings which were secured by tying under the chin, and which covered no part of the forehead. They were worn indoors, to keep the hair tidy, and outdoors, to keep dust out of the hair. With hairstyles becoming increasingly elaborate after 1770, the calash was worn outdoors to protect the hair from wind and weather: a hood of silk stiffened with whalebone or arched cane battens, collapsible like a fan or the calash top of a carriage, they were fitted with ribbons to allow them to be held secure in a gale.

Straw bonnets become common in the early 1800's.  As a bonnet developed a peak, it would extend from the entire front of the bonnet, from the chin over the forehead and down the other side of the face. Some styles of bonnets between ca 1817 and 1845 had a large peak which effectively prevented women from looking right or left without turning their heads: a "coal-scuttle" or "poke" bonnet. Others had a wide peak which was angled out to frame the face. In the 1840s it might be crimped at the top to frame the face in a heart shape.

Types of bonnets for women:

  • A poke bonnet (sometimes also referred to as a Neapolitan bonnet) is a women's bonnet, featuring a small crown and wide and rounded front brim. Typically this extends beyond the face. It has been suggested that the name came about because the bonnet was designed in such a way that the wearer's hair could be contained within the bonnet.  Poke may also refer to the brim itself, which jutted out beyond the wearer's face.
  • A coal scuttle bonnet (sometimes referred to as a coal-scuttle bonnet or sugar scoop bonnet) is a design of bonnet with stiffened brim and a flat back (crown).  The name originates from its similarity to the shape of a traditional coal storer.  It may be very similar in design to the poke bonnet – some sources use the terms interchangeably – however the poke shape had a wide and rounded front brim that extended beyond the face, according to fashion historian Mary Brooks Picken, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art notes that the poke generally shielded the face and had a wide brim that provided a large surface for decoration.
  • The Salvation Army bonnet was a millinery design worn by female members of the Salvation Army. It was introduced in 1880 in the UK and was worn as headgear by most female officers in western countries. It began to be phased out from the late 1970s. 

Women of some religious groups have continued to wear bonnets for worship or everyday clothing. This is especially the case among plain people, such as plain-dressing Friends (Quakers), Old Order Mennonites and the Amish.

Learn about additional ladies headwear and clothing from the directory pages below:

Women's Clothes Directory A

Women's Clothes Directory B

Women's Clothes Directory C

Women's Clothes Directory D

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