The Pumpkin Bonnet – A Wadded Winter Bonnet

A quick post about wadded bonnets – This is abbreviated because I have a larger publication in mind.

What is a Pumpkin Bonnet?

A “Pumpkin” bonnet is a wadded bonnet, most commonly made of silk on the exterior and polished cotton, cotton or silk on the interior. Wide, full channels are filled to a full loft with wool batting either lightly or densely. The channels are separated by smaller channels, single or multiple, that are drawn in by cord or ribbon. The front brim may or may not have a decorative ruffle, attached or tucked from the base exterior fabric. These usually have a petite to moderate bavolet either lightly filled with batting or without batting.

Some other terms that seem to apply: Wadded bonnet/hood, “Ugly”, a “Kiss-me-quick”.

How early were these worn?

Most museums seem to start their dating of wadded, pumpkin style bonnets to the 1840s. Some do push earlier, as far as the late 1700s/early 1800s, such as this example from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

As domestically made winter bonnets were a utilitarian garment rather than a fashionable one, their appearances in fashion literature is limited. I see one set of passages referencing a wadded bonnet, drawn in, worn close to the face that may help us give wadded bonnets drawn close to the latter 1830s:

In the Ladies Pocket Magazine, of 1838, London, we see a mention of wadded bonnets as a fashionable item. Of English fashions – “Wadded bonnets which before were very much in vogue, are now almost the only ones adopted in promenade dress, and it must be confessed nothing could be better calculated for the season, particularly when they are worn, as in often the case, over a blond morning cap of the demi-cornette form.” (In this passage, wadded pelisses and wadded mantles are also mentioned.) Of Paris fashions “Winter has set in with all its rigour, but that is of little consequence to our elegantes, who, occupied with the grand dinners, balls, and fetes that are always given in the commencement of winter, have deserted the promenades. Novelty in out-door costume is consequently out of the question, velvet or satin mantles, which are trimmed and sometimes lined in fur, that their busts are defended by a large fur palatine, their hands doubly shielded by fur cuffs, and a muff, and their pretty faces guarded by a large wadded bonnet, which completely meets under the chin, we have said all that can be said of out-door dress.”  The year prior, the same publication tells us: “We may cite with confidence, among the new bonnets will be very fashionable, the capotes a conlisse ouatees, or wadded drawn bonnets; the are a most comfortable head-dress, composed of satin or pou de soie, lightly wadded, and simply trimmed with ribbon. They differ a little in shape from the other bonnets, sitting closer round the face.” This may or may not be the beginning point of the wadded, pumpkin style bonnet. Neither publication includes an illustration of this practical winter wear in the midst of the popular large bonnets of the era.

In that same time period, we see wadded and quilted bonnets constructed for children in The Workwoman’s Guide. The illustrations suggest the quilted versions have larger crowns that are volumous in some cases. It is important to note the difference between this shape and the Pumpkin shape. I believe this is the construction that evolves through the rest of the century as the quilted bonnet.

Blackwood‘s suggested I should look at “quilted wadded capotes” as well as “bonnets” and “hoods”. Though, this February and March 1843 Peterson‘s suggest capotes were quilted, rather than wadded with loft.

One of only photographs clearly depicting a wadded “pumpkin” style bonnet/hood is a bit of tease. While taken in 1897, the photograph does not show contemporary/current wear, rather historical costume wear. This photograph is held by Deerfield.

Were they worn during the Civil War?

The 1860 painting, School Girls, by George Augustus Baker, shows the girl on the left in what could be a red silk wadded pumpkin bonnet. The artist did several studies for this painting, including  Little Girl in a Red Bonnet, which is undated.

Museum examples:

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Published in: on October 13, 2016 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  

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