One of the “Ask the Milliner” questions was about storing bonnets. I did answer it. But, now I feel like I want to say more about it.
There are a few layers or directions with this:
- Short term vs Long term storage
- Home storage vs Event/Site storage
- Stationary storage vs Mobile storage
There are a few things to consider with each.
For long term storage, meaning the storage from year to year at home, you will want to consider the containers you use and the environment they will be stored in. If you have anything original, antique or vintage on your bonnet, you may want to consider using archival boxes and paper. If you have a moisture or mouse issue, you will want a more air-tight and nibble proof container. Since I house my bonnets inside my home and don’t generally use original materials, I use a Sterilite tote (right)
that fits 2 bonnets comfortably and 3 if need be without squeezing. The totes sit on their shelves that are adjusted to the height of the totes.
Ideally, I would have a head form or stand inside each tote for each bonnet to keep the weight of the bonnet from crushing the bavolet or misshaping the cheektabs. If this is not possible, the least crushable position in my opinion is to have the bonnet sit on the tip facing upward. This is assuming there are no decorations on the back of the tip.
Ribbons can wrinkle or sag while stored. A trick for the long, loose ribbons is to take acid free tissue and roll it into in a tube shape. Start at the end of the ribbon and roll it up neatly. Repeat on the opposite side. If the bonnet is on a stand, tuck the ribbon between the cheektabs and the stand. If it is on the tip, set the ribbon rolls inside. For the loops of bows or decoration, take the same tissue rolled into light balls. Tuck the tissue balls inside the loops. You may want to do this to support any particularly large, heavy flowers. I find light, delicate decorations are best left without anything touching them.
For mobile storage, such as moving or long distance transportation to & from events, you will want to consider how the bonnet(s) will move inside the box. I have found that a tote of boxes when turned on end causes the bonnets inside to all fall on their bavolets. When this is not caught, it takes hours to try to steam out the wrinkles and get the right shape back. Keeping the bonnets from moving can save a lot of trouble later. This can be done with tissue as it is light yet helps hold in space. I would avoid using anything heavy or bulky inside with a bonnet as it may cause crushing rather than helping. My dream fix is a stand attached to the bottom of the box and a gentle way of attaching the bonnet to the top of the stand.
For event or site storing/carrying/displaying, you will want a period correct option. This pretty much comes down to bandboxes, bonnet baskets and a couple other unique options. While currently we are offered circular hat boxes with nifty cords looping about them, mid-nineteenth century boxes were a bit different. First, most were a different shape. They were an oval, squared off oval or a rounded off rectangle. Second, they did not have the nifty cords. Third, they were generally much stronger than many of the thin boxes sold today. In my opinion, when looking for a band box, you want one that is strong, thick walled, large enough for a bonnet to lay on its tip, and with a period paper or able to be recovered. As the oval shapes are not easily found currently, I have found deep round boxes are nice for short term bonnet transportation (ie in the car to an event) and wider round boxes do okay as long as they are strong.
I almost forgot. I wanted to say something about size. Looking at the oval and ovalesque boxes used for millinery, most offered at auction or on museum sites: The lengths seem to range from 15″ to 22″ with 18″ being the most frequent. The widths seem to range from 12″ to 18″ with the width proportionately increasing with the length. The depths or heights seem to range from 8″ to 15″ with more landing between 10″ and 14″. Of course there are larger and smaller bandboxes. There seem to be a good number of extant boxes just smaller than those I grouped. Just looking at images with notes, I can not say what their particular use was.
Now, if you’ve ever tried to carry a stack of bandboxes, especially in a breeze, you know it isn’t easy to the point of comical. This is where bags come in – shaped to fit the bottom of a bandbox, tall enough to carry at least 2. I find these are essential as I can carry 2, 3, 4 band boxes of bonnets up and down the stairs or across the village at the same time.
“Strike Up the Band(box)!”
For those doing period traveling (there are many other articles here of travel):
Bandboxes are seldom used now, except for the convenience of conveying a cap, bonnet,
or dress to the house of a friend or milliner. They are rarely found among the baggage of a
genteel female traveler, square wooden boxes, with locks, keys, and handles, being substituted
for them. These wooden boxes are generally tall enough to contain a folded dress under the
bonnet or other millinery, and should be painted on the outside. They will last for many years,
will bear exposure, and can go outside with the rest of the baggage. Tall square leather trunks
are sometimes used for carrying bonnets, &c. A paste-board bandbox ought to have a strong
loop of twine, red tape [red cotton twill tape used to tie documents together], or galloon [a
trimming of wool, silk, cotton, worsted or a combination of fiber], passed through one side, large
enough to slip over the hand in carrying it. To secure the lid, bore two holes in it near the edges,
one on each side, and pass through them strong pieces of string, each about a quarter of a yard in
length, fastened by a knot on the inside. Make two corresponding holes near the upper edge of
the bandbox itself, and pass a similar string through each of them. Then put on the lid, and tie
each pair of strings in a tight bow knot. These is no better way of keeping a bandbox fast. (Miss Leslie’s House-Book)