Collection: Cloth Bonnets

Cloth Bonnets:

Close your eyes and think wagon trains, Oregon Trail or frontier women and often a cloth-bonneted woman comes to mind.  Strong, dedicated,  hardworking women who braved untold hardships and sparse living conditions for a better life for their families.   Bonnets represent a statement of this dedication and purpose. 

    The most distinctive badge of prairie life, the cloth bonnet became  acceptable for wearing in all sorts of situations. Owning a fancy bonnet was important, but owning a cloth bonnet was a necessity.  Many women could not afford, or did not have access to shaped bonnets or hats, so they made fabric bonnets and added trims and ruffles to dress them up.  Made from many layers of fabric, they did not require any additional materials and thus even a woman on a remote prairie farm or those suffering from the economies of the war years  usually had a little fabric at her disposal with which to make them. For more than just “looking pretty,” the wide brims and deep curtains (called bavolet) protected the wearer from the sun, rain and wind.  Today cloth bonnets still provide this protection.   

    Many styles and variations of cloth bonnets exist.   The most common and well known is the prairie or poke style. The button and slat bonnets are not as common and are used for more utilitarian purposes.  The fact that they could be laid completely flat for ironing and storage, made them preferred by women traveling.  The slats also held the bonnets stiff, even in inclement weather.   Shaped cloth bonnets with many varieties of brim treatments and a shaped back can also be found.  The adaptability of the brim to the skills of the sewer and the ability to create many different looks from a simple style, made this bonnet one of the most popular. 


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