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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Becoming Laura ~ 1860’s/70’s Bonnets and Hair Nets

For this post of the “Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder Costume Challenge” I am sharing the bonnets and head coverings of the era I am recreating as well as the style of bonnet I selected and created on a budget.

The images of my creations are at the bottom of the post for those who wish to bypass the historical research.

I am recreating the dress Laura’s Aunt Docia wore in the early 1870’s which was described in last weeks post. In an age appropriate choice I decided to pair my dress with a hat/bonnet and head covering.

Bonnets of this era were rather small in scale.

Bonnet.  ca. 1865.  Met Museum.:

The hat base was generally made from straw or wool.

(I just saw this ribbon for sale in another color way. Why didn't I buy…:

Straw hats were often covered in silk, velvet or other fabric.

Beaded purple velvet bonnet with deep mauve silk ribbon trim, by Mrs. M. Courtney, American (Brooklyn), ca. 1870.:

Millinery could be trimmed with elaborate layers of ribbon and lace.

1865 ... Bonnet ... silk, linen, & straw ... American ... at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The bonnets were often adorned with silk or paper flowers.

Bonnet Made Of White Straw, Designed To Be Worn On Top Of The Head, Trimmed With…:

Hats/bonnets could sit at the back or on top of the head.

Hairstyles illustration from "La Mode Illustrée", 1860.  Which of the women from The Quilted Heart quilting circle would've worn which hairstyle and bonnet?:

But what about the sunbonnet!!!

It’s no secret that the Ingalls were a family a modest means. Pioneer women and girls could often only afford sunbonnets made from fabric.

civil war era work dresses with hoops, slat & corded bonnets:

We know that Laura Ingalls Wilder wore a sunbonnet as a girl.

“While she hurried to the house, she thought that Ma might let her wear her Sunday hair-ribbon and perhaps Mary’s freshly ironed sunbonnet.”  “. . . quickly they changed to fresh dresses and shoes. But Ma saw no reason for hair-ribbons on a weekday and she said Laura must wear her own sunbonnet. ‘It would be fresher’, Ma said, ‘if you took care to keep it so.’ Laura’s bonnet was limp from hanging down her back and the strings were limp too. But that was Laura’s own fault.” ~ The Long Winter

There are a wide variety of patterns and tutorials available online and at craft stores.

You can find two free options that offer a tutorial/pattern to make a sunbonnet HERE and HERE.

1850's corded bonnet:

But we also know that as Laura came of age she owned more than one hat. In These Happy Golden Years Laura titled a chapter “The Cream Colored Hat” and was quite descriptive in its styling. In The First Four Years Laura describes a hat she wore while courting Almanzo. “The sage-green, rough-straw poke bonnet lined with blue silk softly framed her pink cheeks and her large blue eyes with the bangs of her brown hair above them.”

Hats and bonnets were always worn while outdoors but indoors ladies of a certain age would often wear a variety of head coverings.

1860 Godey's. Left, gored breakfast-cap with insertion and needlework, and…:

Hair nets were quite popular during this time.

Arnold, Laura Jackson. ca. 1865.  Laura Jackson Arnold, the sister of Thomas J…:

Like many fashions of the day the style was perhaps first worn in the royal courts. Hair nets and head coverings were quite favored by Queen Victoria.

But the actual hair net wearing craze possibly came from the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Victoria Princess Royal, Crown Princess of Prussia.

Victoria, Princess Royal, Crown Princess of Prussia (1840-1901) | Royal Collection Trust:

The style was also favored by Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke “Dagmar” of Denmark who married Tsar Alexander III and became Empress of Russia. She was the younger sister of Princess Alexandra who would marry Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria's son and heir to the British throne. 

This photo of Princess Alexandra of Denmark shows an early 1860s chemisette with pagoda sleeves; she wears a hairnet:

Just to clarify hair nets should not be referred to as “snoods” for this era. That term is reserved for hair nets made fashionable in the 1940’s.

1860s dress:

Hair nets of this era were also referred to as “fancy headdresses”.

1860 Godey's. Net headdress of chenille, silk, or braid, with velvet plait and…:

If you can read French this antique tutorial shows how ladies could make one type of netting. 

project for ball "snood". La Mode illustrée(1861):

Here is another style in English.

Nets, not snoods.:

The hair nets were most often accented in the front by some type of pleated ribbon made from cotton or silk. A bow was often added at the top or the side of the headdress.

Lady in an even plaid dress. Bishop sleeves, pleated bodice, pleated skirt…:

I happened to have some vintage pleated ribbon on hand that I chose to use in order to save time and to cut costs. If you would like to make your own pleated ribbon here is an excellent video tutorial.

Ribbon pleating can be done is several different ways to achieve different looks. Here is a link to a Victorian styled ribbon pleat and there is also a very good historically accurate pleated ribbon tutorial available HERE.

Ribbon Puffs

This lovely blog shows step by step how to gather silk and lace together. Instructions are first in German followed by English.

Perhaps the easiest of all the pleated ribbons is ruffled ribbon trim. I used this tutorial when making my 18th century bergére hat but it could be easily added to a hair net.

18th Century Ensemble Decor To Adore 158-001

For my bonnet I found a small vintage hat from the 1950’s at an antique mall for $5.00.


Hats made from straw and raffia type materials take very well to being spray painted. I transformed the ivory bonnet with two coats of basic Rust-Oleum navy spray paint.

I had a few vintage blooms and bits of ribbon on hand that matched the color palette of my dress.

Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder 017-001

All of the elements were either hand stitched or hot glued on.

Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder 102

I opted to only decorate the back and sides of the bonnet.

Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder 101

It is actually quite comfortable to wear.

Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder 103

For another look I ordered a hairnet off of Ebay for $1.99. I selected brown to closely match my hair.

The ribbon is removable so that the net can be worn with the bonnet which was common during this era. I hand sewed on just the “eye” portion of a hook and eye in three areas (the sides and center). The ribbon can then be attached to the edge of the net with a bobby pin.

Becoming Laura 002

This look is also surprisingly comfortable to wear. It is a nice option for ladies with shorter hair like mine.

Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder 388

I’ll see you tomorrow with “Shoes, Stockings and Gloves”.



Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

Oh my goodness. You always recreate the most interesting designs. I love the history of the hats and bonnets.

Lynn Bean said...

Wonderful! Hats are one of my very favorite things to study and make. I have not done so for a very long time but your post is great inspiration. What you have created is fabulous!

Jeanie said...

I'm just loving this series of posts and I really admire a) your authenticity and research and b) your talent in bringing it to life in this day and age! Bravo! Can't wait for the next part!

Norma Vaughn said...

Laura, I just love all of your posts!

P. A. Garbutt said...

I am soooo enjoying your posts. Last year was gorgeous and this year's stands to rival the last. Love the connection to "Laura." Such fun for you.

Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

Laura I have a small straw vintage/antique smooshed pink hat I stashed somewhere in my basement. Not sure if it is repusable, but if you want it send me your snail mail via email and I will look for it and send it to you.

Also, I have a cotton wide tiered hoop slipskirt. Doyou have any need for it too?

GREAT job on the hats. You look marvelous, too. : - )


Createology said...

Thank you Laura for visiting and commenting. I adore your history lesson on bonnets and hairnets. Both of yours are stunning. I shall need to come back and see what else you have created. Embracing Creative Bliss...

Denise Altman said...

These styles look so complicated but you are making it easy! Very interesting series. I have loved the Little House stories all of my life, and also have enjoyed learning about the "real" Laura. So neat that you are a part of the family!

Bloggymom said...

Your hat look great on you. Oh... I love hats!!! :)

Daniela said...

What a wonderful jump back to the age I feel to belong to, you feel to belong to, we both feel to belong to, blessed be, dearest, darling Laura !

Wishing you all my best and even much more for the remainder of your week,
may it be blessed with gladness and fulfillment

Xx Dany