Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lady's Civil War Era Wire Framed Bonnet

We are only the care-takers of these chosen things that we proudly display and it is our duty to care and pass along to the ones coming behind us. Giving them the knowledge and care to appreciate. These are truly my feelings about antique and collectible collecting. Love is in the "hunt", perseverance of that "hunt", caring for and learning about the treasures I hold so dear.

Textiles in all eras were in part, "a labor of love". Some of course being about sheer necessity. I look with admiration of the beauty & precise handiwork ladies of yesteryear stored away in cupboards, chests etc. only to be discovered again... No matter how small or minute the treasure is, it is my feeling it should be held in high esteem to honor the person who so carefully created it.

A question from a friend regarding if a lady from the Victorian era did indeed wear bonnets/hats made of a wire frame & how uncomfortable it might have been. This question did make me ponder this thought. Some ladies bonnets or hats were made on wire frames over many decades. The one she was questioning is from the Civil War era with the wire covered in netted black lace with curlicues and loops of straw applied in a decorative way. This hat is smallish in size and would have set on the back of the head.

Over the course of years I have own & sold many such bonnets from the Civil War through the early part of the 1900's. Some of the earlier bonnets were of Chantilly lace over net which covered the wire. Many decorated with silk & satin ribbons. Some were of white lace and most others of back lace. During the Edwardian era wire framed hats were of a larger brimmed variety covered in white or light colored cotton, some of eyelets and, again, decorated in lace & ribbons. This type of hat might be referred to as a mop cap. Children's hat and bonnets were not left out of this realm either.

The construction of the bonnet consisted of a wire frame in the gauge the thickness of a coat hanger. It was rigid enough to support the shape but not so thick to be cumbersome. Over this framework was stretched & stitched the desired fabric or lace choice. Decorations of lace ruffles, ribbons etc were then added.

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