How to Wear a Sunbonnet

Bonnet of beautiful autumn colors in a southwest print from Rawhide Gifts and GalleryHow to wear a sunbonnet seems to be confusing to many. So here is a take on how to wear and use them.

Pioneer Colonial style bonnets were worn in the period of 1850’s. For poorer women, many were made with scraps of material, most not even matching, then sewn together and filled with cardboard or the like to stiffen the brims.

If a women were fortunate enough to be able to afford a decent bonnet, they were usually reserved for the rare outing or for Sunday ‘go-to-meeting’ kind of get together’s.  The material for frontier women would be harder to procure and more expensive. Even needles were pricey and great care had to be taken when making one so that no mistakes were made and no wastage of material was caused.

And adjusting the indside ties is helpful to wear a sunbonnet correctly. 


A wealthier woman was much more fortunate indeed to be able to have no only own a bonnet for Sunday church services, but depending on her station in life, she may have riding hats (one for each day possibly!), one for funerals, morning hats, parties and the like. And a really wealthy woman would have one to match each outfit as well as the storage to keep them all.

But today I’m focusing only on the 'lowly' prairie bonnet which is actually not really so lowly, and is used quite a bit today. The bonnet I’m referring to  was used for women in the mid 1800’s to protect themselves from the heat and the ravages of aging from the sun. Much like what we use hats for today, these bonnets even  protected women from the endless prairie winds and dust.

Some of these sunbonnets actually sported a much larger brim, longer neck ruffles, or even side coverings to give women even greater protection from the elements. The one you see here today, while doing the same, is actually more attractive than the ones with the side coverings.

Though these bonnets are simple, they are sturdy. Surprisingly, many women wonder how to actually wear a pioneer sunbonnet. It’s actually quite simple.

These bonnets have a casing and tie inside, rather than elastic, which allows the wearer to control the tightness of the fit. The more the ties are tightened, the smaller the head cap will be, the further the brim will pull back from the face and the less covering from the sun the wearer will have.

For the most effective protection from sun and wind, which is what most women required in this time period, loosen the ties and pull the brim forward over the face and nose area. This will effectively shield a the wearer’s face from sun and elements.

The rear view of the two larger photos shows how the bonnet looks both when the ties are pulled tight and when they are loosened. Because my model's hair is so long, it's difficult to see just how well the neck ruffle covers the back of the neck to protect from sunburn.

For those that wear these head garments, either as a gardening hat or for pioneer western reenactments, these photos show how wearig a sunbonnet is really simple and this is considered the proper way to wear them.



Check these period correct material choices for bonnets here.
Check these regular bonnets for great color and print choices here







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