22 September 2011

Isn't that a Jane Austen Bonnet?

Recent conversation with a family member regarding the black bonnet I purchased this past summer from At the Sign of the Golden Scissors...

My new bonnet.
"Your bonnet looks so...Jane Austen. Are you sure it's accurate?"

My response, "Yes."

"Really? It looks like something from a BBC Jane Austen series. Are you sure it's right for your era?"


I knew of two primary sources off the top of my head:

1) Remember that runaway impression I created earlier this summer? The January 1773 ad called for "a black bonnet." But there's no picture.

2) The other source is this example from Colonial Williamsburg's collections:

Woman's hat, black silk, 1770-1780
(Colonial Williamsburg accession number  1993-335)
Even though I've been told my black bonnet is accurate for Rev War, I figured this conversation was a sign that I needed to research bonnets--specifically prints with concrete dates that show ladies in undress. In doing some quick and non-comprehensive searching, I found...
...this print from the V&A. True to '80s fashion, she's wearing a poofy bonnet that's surely black silk.
The Flower Girl, London, December 9, 1784
(V&A accession number E.678-1959)
The Beautiful Fruit Gatherer, a print from antique dealer Grosvenor Prints
Dated c.1790, her bonnet is also very full. It looks like a lot of fun to wear, but she's a little overdressed for my research and a tad later than my era. 

What about something earlier? The Lewis Walpole Library has prints that better fit my era...

The Lover's Disguise (c.1776, call number 776.00.00.05) shows a fabulous black bonnet sitting on the table.
For something less formal, there's A Ladies Maid Purchasing a Leek (1772, call number 772.
Then there's The Pretty Mantua Maker (1772, call number 772. She's wearing a fab black bonnet trimmed with white ribbon that's similar to mine. C'est parfait!

My research here skims the surface of bonnets in 18th century prints but I think these examples help me confidently say, "No, it's not a Jane Austen bonnet."


Craving more bonnets? For more comprehensive bonnet research than I have offered, check out this link from 18th Century Notebook. There's also this bonnet blog post from Dames a la Mode, which shows a great collection of bonnets from 1797 fashion plates.

I also wanted to share a French bonnet print that I stumbled upon since it falls within my era...

French c.1775-1785
(V&A accession number E.1008-1959)
I couldn't imagine wearing it, but those are some fun poofs!