This week's Museum Monday lucky number is 14! When one say's 'Poke Bonnet',I have found most folks will immediately think of the stiff straw types, ornamented with flowers and ribbons and lined in silk. Did you know they were very popular as sun bonnets? Some really quite deep, the simple cotton holding its shape with a starch stiffening. These bonnets were lightweight and cool in the summer, and white seems to be a popular choice over prints...perhaps because white reflects the heat away from the wearer...or that they could be easily boiled and washed....or a little of both. This example, for a child, has another common component of these sun bonnets, a long neck bavolet, or ruffle, that would keep the sun off the wearers neck. Unlike today, it was not a welcome thing to have tanned skin....one of the first signs of a 'ladye' was her pale white, unblemished complexion.
These bonnets extend out from the face, hense the name 'poke bonnet', (because one had to poke their head in there for the wearer to see them), and thus offered the wearer a bit of a sun shade....I like to think of them as the Grandmother's to the modern ball caps that everyone wears around today....
The date is a broad one on this piece, the extra fine stitching and double ruffle around the front scream 1820's.. the double ruffle with its rolled hems is quite popular in 1820's era gowns, like several I have here in the collection.
Entirely hand stitched and corded with 6 strands of cotton string in each channel. The channels made by taking up a little tuck in the fabric, then running the string thru each one. These provided another layer of stiffening, with four rows of cording around the front to help the bonnet to keep from collapsing in on the wearer.
I'd much rather wear one of these, than a ball cap....
The Lady's Repository Museum is a privately owned museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and study of unique early American fashions of both women and children, the later being a specialty.
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