Excellent Example

I hope this seller doesn’t mind me writing about her/his listing/item. I think this straw bonnet is a nice example for showing one of the constructions of a straw bonnet. You can see the whole listing here.

The sections of this black straw are well defined. Notice how the crown is developed row by row with the plait. The rows are even as the build the crown forward. Then the straw sewer (technically a cottage industry worker, different than a milliner) brings the top of the crown further forward with three additional pieces of plait at graduated lengths.

She continues to add both depth and shape in the brim by again using a series of graduated lengths of plait. The causes the brim to rise and project forward. The last 7 or 8 rows of plait smooth out the shape of the brim creating that fashionable shape.

This bonnet is also helpful in looking at later changes made to a millinery piece.

First, I do not believe this straw was dyed black in one of the late 1850s, early 1860s methods. Other straws dyed in that time do not have the natural color of the straw reading through like this one, even after a century and a half. I also don’t think this straw was painted. Usually, when a straw bonnet or hat has been painted, the paint does not get into the plait. As the straw dries and loosens over time, the unpainted areas show through. I suspect something like a stain or dye was applied to the bonnet after it was made and worn for a while. There are recipes for dying a straw bonnet at home in domestic magazines. (I’ll see if I can find you some examples.) This latter staining, suggest a purposeful remake of this bonnet, potentially for mourning.

Second, that ribbon binding just isn’t something commonly done to a bonnet in this way by a professional milliner. I am hesitant to say one way or another as to why this was done. It is just not a common treatment. It is also uncommon to not have the bavolet with this shape of bonnet. The shape firmly being 1860-1861, 2 at the latest; bonnets without bavolets coming in in 1864. Looking at the way this is applied and the way the ties are attached, I am not convinced these changes were in this bonnet’s fashion height. Meaning, these may have been later, possibly theatrical or remake changes.

Similarly, is the tip. While there were soft crown straw bonnets. Generally, they were shaped differently though the crown, rather than just having the tip removed. This bonnet had a large tip removed. In its place, we see bare black net. I do not believe this net was meant to be the external material. Rather, it was likely covered with a silk or lace. Again, we could only speculate on the reasoning.

The interior has some interesting features. The black silk lining is pieced and set on the bias. We can see multiple piecing seams along the front of the brim. There is something white under the black silk. It shows itself rather brightly in one break. It also looks like the material softens the edge of the lining. I find it interesting the the entire interior is done in black as, even mourning bonnets kept a white lining in many cases. The lace appears to be unevenly faded. As I am not knowledgeable about lace, I shall not speculate.

All in all, I love the shape of this bonnet. It shows us a good deal about the straw construction. Sadly, it has an awful breakline through multiple layers of plait.

Published in: on September 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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