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"I do recollect when a lady did not think it necessary to wear a bushel measure on her haed . . . when a face was suficiently pretty without the foil of a coal scuttle,
or when a chimney-pot with a sweep’s brush sticking out at the top of it
was not thought the most gracefull of all models."
A Fashion Writer

Bonnets, by far the most recognizable symbol of the Regency, enjoyed popularity well into the mid 1800's. Velvet, lace and straw were only a few of the variations available to the Lady of the Regency. Girls often decorated their own bonnets at home, wealthier women had them specially made to go with their various outfits. There were literally hundreds of variations on the bonnet during this time. Since the main purpose of the hat was to protect the complexion (beyond that of accessorizing, of course!) anything that provided shade for the head was a go.

The Poke bonnet became universal, sweeping all countries and assuming exaggerated forms. There was the round, close-fitting poke (left), with or without side feather; the long poke, well over the face; the wide poke, worn over a cap, with a round, flat piece behind; and the moderately large poke, with a gathered or shirred crown behind. Mockingly known as the "Coal Scuttle", it provided inspiration for many satirical cartoons of the day.

The Tall bonnet. Almost a hat, with a stiff, Directory style, this was a bonnet with a tiny brim and exaggerated crown. Mimicking the top hat, it was usually made of cloth and extravagantly decorated with ribbons, buckles, feathers, flowers and fruit.

Sunbonnets, the most basic of bonnets (made famous by Little House on the Prairie) remained popular for the longest time due to their sturdy versatility. Made of cotton, they were inexpensive and easy to make. hey are still in use today, in the 21st century.

Straw bonnets were possibly the most popular bonnets during the Regency due to their cheapness and the fact that they could be trimmed and re-trimmed to go with any outfit, in any season and therefore did not go out of style. There are too many variations to mention all of them, but a few of the most common were

  • Cloth covered crown

  • Plain with ribbons

  • Trimmed with ribbons, flowers and feathers

  • Bonnets were worn both with and without strings (ribbons) It depended on the style of the wearer.

Cloth bonnets, differing from sunbonnets, featured "ruching" on the crown and were usually created on wire frame.

One other type of bonnet, that I have yet to find a name for, resembled a bowl or plate turned upside down on the head and fastened with ribbons. It could also be decorated with flowers.

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