Jane Austen Era Straw Bonnets

Fashion plate from Le Bon Genre, No. 28, "Atelier de Modistes"


“This charming plate depicts a milliner’s studio, ca. 1807, showing many fashionable hat styles. Note the straw poke bonnet on the girl in the pink gown, and lingerie cap on the girl to her right. A poke bonnet and a round straw bonnet rest on hatstands in the background. The girl on the extreme right is fashioning a turban on a wonderful milliner’s head; she wears a wonderful gold ornament in her hat. A wonderful “skimmer” is on the floor beside her chair.”

Wikipedia defines a Poke Bonnet as “a women’s bonnet (hat) in the shape of a hood, featuring a projecting rim on the front side, which would shade the face of the wearer.

The poke bonnet came into fashion at the beginning of the 19th century. It is called a poke bonnet because all of one’s hair could be poked inside it.”

Early 19th century Leghorn straw poke bonnet


Trim on this hat is turquoise silk ribbon. “The original lining is intact. Due to their large size and fragility, they were difficult to store so few survive. Dimensions 11″ end to brim horizontally, 9″ across the eyes, and 6 1/2″ brim edge to crown join. $800.00 – 1,200.”

…”straw poke bonnet of intricately woven bands of braided straw in an openwork design, similar to fashion plate No. 42 (above left). This hat retains its original silk lining and is trimmed with two sheer silk ribbons (original?). Dimensions 12″ back to front horizontally, 8″ width across the eyes, and approximately 11″ vertically from top to chin. There are several breaks in the straw edge. $400.00 – 800.00.”

Above left is wallpaper box (circa 1820). Value: $800.00 – 1,200.00.”

Now, that’s a great box (and I love old boxes), but twice the value of the hat??

Split straw bonnet, circa 1810.


This rare bonnet has “overlapping layers of straw, the fancy openwork, and long, slightly angled crown. The ribbons present are probably not original. The hand-stitching is clearly visible in the close-up. This bonnet came from Massachusetts. Dimensions: 14″ horizontally (side back to side front), approximately 8″ wide across the eyes, and 9″ from top front to chin. $1,000 – 2,000.

The Kyoto Costume Institute’s wonderful book, Revolution in Fashion 1715 – 1815, pictures on page 99 a hat very similar to this one. It also resembles an early nineteenth century straw bonnet at the Rhode Island Historical Society, made by the famous Betsy Metcalf. In 1798, Betsy, at the age twelve, made what is believed to be the first documented American straw bonnet. She the ‘learned all who care to make bonnets,’ launching the American straw hatmaking industry.”

All photos and quotes in this post are from “Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970” by Susan Langley. These prices are only a guide and were set in 1998 when it was first published.

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2 Comments

Filed under 1800s, America, Antiques/Vintage, Books, Crafts, England, Fashion, Femininity, Hats, History, Jane Austen, Made in the U.S.A.

2 responses to “Jane Austen Era Straw Bonnets

  1. Really fascinating, Carla. I love seeing old things like these hats and thinking about the lives of the women who owned them.

    • That’s how I feel about paper dolls. When I look at old ones, I wonder about the little girls who played with them.

      Or old books. What were the people like who read them? Did they respond to the same things in the book that I did? What kind of a conversation would we have about it?

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