The bonnet has a long history: it has been around since the middle ages and both men and women (albeit it is more typically worn by females) and it has been used for a lot of different reasons and made out of many, many different materials. The word derives from the french word bonnet which originally meant the material this type of hat was made, but the term ended up becoming very wide and designating many different types of hats made out of different materials, as in the 18th century it became a symbol of high fashion and the term “bonnet” became the preferred one to designate almost every type of hat used by women. Usually, the name bonnet designates a hat made out of soft material and with a round front brim instead of an all-around brim.
The first instances of bonnet we know of are in Europe during the Middle Ages: a bonnet was a very simple hat with a small brim and a ribbon to be tied around the chin that was worn at home to protect the hair from grease and outside to protect it from dust, dirt and for modesty (during the Middle Ages it was considered sinful for a woman to have her hair uncovered, specially if she was going to the church), and while the reason it was used stayed somewhat constant up until the Victorian era, the materials and fashions changed. However, during 19th Century the bonnet started to be considered fashionable and higher class women started to wear it, which made it become mainstream as a fashion accesory: in the Victorian era, almost all women were wearing bonnets. The usage was similar: it protected the hair, and helped women stay modest and cute but also some additional uses appeared: during Summer, women wore a big, wide brim bonnet called a “poke bonnet” that was usually made out of straw and protected the face from the sun, with the brim being so big that it forced women to turn their heads if they wanted to look left and right;and a winter bonnet made out of heavier materials like wool or velvet. Of course, higher class women and aristocrats had additional bonnets that they combined with their dresses made of many different materials, like silk or linen, usually with a hard brim to protect the face from the sun and from stares and that was usually heavily decorated. A bonnet became necessary for a good woman and they were worn out of modesty to public places, to church and if one was a widow or a wife, and certain traditions like the “Easter bonnet” started to be developed: the “Easter Bonnet” was when, during Easter, women changed from their Winter bonnet into the Summer one, and it is the reason why bonnets have come to be associated with Easter.
However, during the late 19th Century parasols started to be the preferred fashion accessory to protect oneself from the sun, and the bonnet started to fall out of fashion, being mainly used by women living in the prairie out of modesty. As hats started to come back into fashion, bonnets started to disappear and nowadays the bonnets has almost completely fallen out of fashion, worn only in very particular contexts: in recreations of Victorian fashion, by certain religious people like the Quakers, the Amish or the Old Order Mennonites and of course, in Gothic Lolita fashion.
Gone with the Wind is a movie that takes place during the American Civil war, during the 1860s and it follows Scarlett O’Hara, a stereotypical “southern beauty” that is the daughter of a couple of plantation owners and will be forced to be strong and resolute as the war destroys her lifestyle and as the social order she is part of starts to crumble. During the start of the movie, we see a young Scarlett with an enormous, soft “poke bonnet” and a green and white dress, perhaps the outfit that is the most popularly know and the one everybody imagines when talking about the movie.
Of course, as the movie progresses we see her in plenty of different styles and wearing a lot of different hats that, in the era, would have been considered bonnets but nowadays don’t fit the strict definition we have for a bonnet. For example, this hats
would have been considered a bonnet during the Victorian era, but most of us would consider them “mini hats” or “headdresses” because they lack the wide brim that we have come to associate with bonnets.However, Scarlett does wear more bonnets during the movie, for example this one which is a clear example of the winter bonnet: made out of a heavier cloth (probably velvet), with a smaller brim and much more ornate and elegant.
Lolita fashion has a somewhat rigid idea of what constitutes a bonnet: it is a hat with a somewhat wide brim that encircles the face, decorating it, making it look rounder and cuter and protecting it from the sun. There’s usually two types of bonnet, a soft one, usually floppier and made out of soft materials like cotton or tulle and hard bonnets, which are usually made out of heavier materials like velvet or velveteen and have a cardboard reinforcement inside the brim to keep it stiff.
In addition, we also have the half bonnet which is a bonnet that doesn’t cover the entirety of the hair, which allows for a lot more creative freedom when it comes to hairstyles.
Personally, I have never worn a bonnet because I think my face is too round for it to look good, but I would really like to try one out someday. This is me in my favourite Lolita dress, during my trip to Japan last year. I would really like to combine this dress with a bonnet like this one for a more simple, every day style that is still very elegant and refined; or something like this for a really fun, costumey look ! Hopefully I can wear a bonnet someday !
All in all, the bonnet is a lovely accessory with a long story and many uses. Not only it is incredibly beautiful, elegant and classy but is great to protect the hair from dust, the face from the sun, and to give your outfits a cute touch ! Perhaps we should bring bonnets back into fashion ?
What’smore, there are more Lolita Hats for Summer Time,let’s check it out！