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

The Tricorne or “Cocked Hat”

French Tricorne
French Tricorne of 18th Century, Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

The tricorne hat, which was initially called a “cocked hat,” became popular in the 1700s but was falling out of fashion by the 1800s and eventually evolved into the bicorne. The tricorne was actually an evolution of a broad-brim round hat worn by Spanish soldiers in Flanders in the 1600s. When its brim was pledged (bound), it formed a triangular shape. The triangular shape was the shape favored by Spanish soldiers. Thus, when war broke out in 1667 between France and Spain in the Spanish Netherlands, the triangular hat found its way to France. 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

Millinery Fashions for 1881

Millinery Fashions: Winter Caps of Foulard Trimmed with Lace, Author's Collection
Winter Caps of Foulard Trimmed with Lace, Author’s Collection

Millinery fashions for 1881 were based on varying materials and styles depending on the season. For instance, straw was the popular springtime material for hats, and, in general, hats were large, whereas bonnets were small and worn close to the head. This close-fitting bonnet shape was still in vogue when summer started, and hats for the seaside were coarse straw, lined with velvet or plain or gathered satin, trimmed with flowers and worn large “so as to shade the face thoroughly.” For fall, bonnets remained small and close-fitting. Many were composed entirely of one material, such as leaves, feathers, or beads. Some fall bonnets were also created from plush and trimmed with flowers or beads, arranged en diademe.

Similar to bonnets, hats were created from plush and then trimmed with feathers. In fact, a rage existed in 1881 for “feathers of all kinds, from the close pheasant’s breast to the long graceful plumes of the ostrich.” Fall hats were opposite of bonnets in size and because hats remained large and picturesque-looking, when it came to winter hats, the most fashionable material was plush. In addition, during the bitter winter months, many women wore long black lace shawl veils on top of their bonnets to keep their ears and necks warm. Continue reading

Hat Fashions for September 1880

Hat Fashions for September 1880
Ladies’ Hat, Author’s Collection

Flower bonnets were all the rage in 1880, but a handsome feather was also “fashionable and stylish, and when gracefully and tastefully arranged, … always becoming.” Yet, feathers were not particularly cheap. The nineteenth century fashion magazine, The Delineator, noted:

“A handsome feather is a prize … More especially is the purchase of a black feather a measure of discretion. It may cost considerable … but years of service, and its undiminished stylish appearance, will more than pay for the original cost.”

Of the feathers available, it was the ostrich feathers that were considered to be the most “novel.” They were long and curly and usually displayed in twos and of contrasting colors: “cardinal and sulphur, sage-green and cardinal, peacock-blue and mauve, or lavender and old-gold.” Additionally, much to the delight of hat wearer’s was the demise of “placing three funeral-looking black … [feathers] on the side of bonnet, each one waving a different way … for the sight of the nodding plumes was anything but agreeable or artistic.” Continue reading

Spring Bonnets 1878

spring bonnets 1878
Beret, Author’s Collection

The most popular spring bonnets in 1878 were the “French chip, soft English straws, and … rough fancy braids with a piping of velvet between the rows of braid.” They were popular because they were supposedly of exceptional quality and much more durable than bonnets of former seasons. White and black bonnets were equally fashionable, with straws being colored primarily in brown, black, gray, or ecru. Additionally, bonnet styles for middle-aged women were usually large with flaring brims filled in with lace frills.

The latest bonnets were also comfortable shapes, moderate in size, large in the head, and close-fitting in front. Crowns tended to be square at the top, low behind, and “finished by a straight curtain band, or one … indented in the middle.” Satin was the primary trimming, and beads were frequently used as a “special feature of spring garniture,” along with a variety of artificial flowers and feathers. Continue reading

Popular Millinery and Millinery Ornament Terms for the 1870s

Millinery 1870s, Author's Collection
Millinery 1870s, Author’s Collection

aigrette—a French word used to denote the plume or feathery tuft on top of a bird’s head. “Hence the term came to…designate the long, delicate…feathers which being stuck upright in a lady’s headdress…[gave] a majestic appearance to the person.” The word also came to be associated with jeweled ornaments shaped as feathers and worn on a woman’s head during the eighteenth century, but, by the nineteenth century, almost any plume, even if flowers, were noted to be an aigrette. Additionally, during the nineteenth century, an aigrette was attached to a woman’s hat during the day and worn alone as a headdress at night.
Alsatian—refers to the Alsace region of France and was sometimes spelled Alsacian in the 1800s.
Alsatian bow—a flat, enormous bow with a loose knot. 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

The Jolliffe Hat

The Jolliffee , Public Domain
The Jolliffe , Public Domain

The Jolliffe (also sometimes spelled Jolliffee or Jollife) was not your common hat. It got its name from Hylton Jolliffe (1773-1843) who an English politician renown for wearing oversized head gear. In fact, Jolliffe’s hats were so large, the Sporting Magazine humorously observed that “he will punt three or four of us over…his hat.” The magazine also noted how Jolliffe regularly wore large hats stating, “Who has not seen him walk up St. James’s-street with his venerable white head covered with a huge punt hat…he looks like what he is, a country Gentleman and a fox hunter.” Continue reading

Hat Fashions for October 1897

Hat Fashions for October 1897: Young Ladies' Toque
Young Ladies’ Toque, Author’s Collection

The hat was considered one of the most important items of a woman’s toilette. One twentieth century writer noted its importance stating:

“When a clever woman chooses a hat, she is careful that the shadows it casts on her face are becoming to her. Every hat throws it own set of shadows, and I doubt whether any two hats produce exactly the same shadow effect. A woman can alter the whole contour of her countenance by wearing a hat of a certain shape. If her face is thin, she will select a large hat, which will give the impression of plumpness, and a different kind of hat if her face is full. Every woman knows this, and most of them are aware that it is the varying shadows which bring the different effects. Without her hat many a woman loses much of her picturesqueness — or thinks she does, which comes to the same thing [and] that’s why hats are generally worn.” Continue reading