The Calash Bonnet

Calash Bonnet: Large Calash of 1770, 1770s, with Fan-shaped Pleating and Ribbons on Either Side
Large calash of 1770s, with fan-shaped pleating and ribbons on either side. Courtesy of

The calash bonnet (known in France as the thérèse or caleche) was a popular and intriguing millinery item in the mid-1700s and were worn through the early 1800s. It came about because it protected the towering hairstyles that were popular at the time from inclement weather and it allowed for decency. Because it tied under the chin, it was considered more of bonnet than a hat. On the tall calash versions, ribbons were attached to the brim to allow the wearer to draw it up as required. Thus, it operated similar to the collapsible top found on the carriage by the same name. One description of how the bonnet operated was provided by Englishman Thomas Wright: Continue reading

Interesting Millinery Facts

Head coverings have been with us since the time of man. Initially, they were seen as utilitarian because they offered protection from nature’s harsh elements or an enemy’s weapon. Some of the first headwear to be depicted was found in cave paintings at Lussac-les-Chateaux in Central France that dates to 15,000 BC. The next headwear to be depicted was skull-caps. These were followed by the Phrygian caps worn by freed slaves in Greece and Rome, which eventually became known as “Liberty Caps” during the French Revolution. In the sixteenth century, woman’s hats at last attained structure, and, by the seventeenth century, women everywhere began to clamor for millinery. This resulted in the idea of millinery fashion, with women’s hats becoming extremely popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

millinery facts
Young Ladies’ Hat, December 1896, Author’s Collection

There are also several other interesting millinery facts provided below: Continue reading

Hats to Fit a Man’s Personality in the Georgian and Regency Era

Hats were Named for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the late Georgian and Regency Era, hats were more than an element of fashion. There were so many hat styles, any man of any shape or size could find a hat to fit his physical features. But hats were not just designed to fit a man’s physical characteristics; they were also designed to fit a man’s personality. In fact, it was noted that “a man may be readily summed up … approved of or condemned by his immediate fellows [by what hat is put upon his head.]” For this reason men wanted to wear the right hat to give the right impression.

Some hats were unique just like their wearers. Others were elegant, and some “exceedingly comfortable” or “admired for the ease and simplicity of style [more] than for any peculiar character[istic].” Certain hats offered nothing more than nice proportions, whereas some hats were noted as being gentlemanly or displaying “character.” Among the hats designed to fit the eighteenth and nineteenth century man’s unique personality were the Clericus, the Eccentric, John Bull, the Regent, and the Wellington. Continue reading

Evolution of Women’s Hats From the 1700 to 1800s

Woman Wearing a Bergère Hat, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Woman Wearing a Bergère Hat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

There were remarkable transformations in hat styles from the 1700s to the 1800s. The hat changed to match empires, dynasties, and ages, but it did not take on a fashionable turn until the mid 1700s. It was at that time that women made popular the shepherdess hat, a wide-brimmed, shallow-crowned straw hats, known as a bergère. They were usually stiff crowned hats, made from straw, and tied under the chin. These hats had been worn since the early 1700s but took on a fashionable bent between the 1750s and 1760s. Rising hairstyles soon caused many of these hats to tilt forward to accommodate the ever rising hairstyles. As hairstyles became larger and larger, hats styles became smaller and smaller until they were discarded altogether for time. However, extremely large hats were soon introduced and sometimes completely covered the high coiffures. It was also around this time that the word “bonnet” began to take on the its modern connotation and began to describe a variety of new hats. Continue reading

The Top Hat

Silk Hat for late 1800s and Early 1900s, Top Hat History
Silk Hat for late 1800s and Early 1900s, Public Domain

Top hat history became exciting when John Hetherington became known as the first person to wear the “high” hat. The idea that anyone should do so supposedly caused his family to strongly advise him against wearing it. But, he could not be deterred and “forth he sallied.” It happened on a freezing January day in 1797 around noon. That was when Hetherington stepped into the street from his haberdashery shop on the Strand.

In the 1700s, the Strand was one of the busiest streets in London, and when people saw Hetherington and his unusually high hat they “stopped and gazed in wonder.” He had not gone far when a large crowd surrounded him, and before long the crowd grew into a “howling mob.” Reports are that two women fainted, dogs howled, and children screamed. All this commotion attracted the attention of the constable, and after a boy fell and his arm was broken by the crowd, Hetherington earned an arraignment before the Lord Mayor for “breach of peace and inciting to riot.”

When Hetherington was brought before the bench he declared that “in extenuation of his crime … he had not violated any law of the kingdom, but was merely exercising a right to appear in a head-dress of his own design — a right not denied to any Englishman.” Continue reading