Millinery Vocabulary

With so many new people asking basic millinery questions, I realized it would be a good idea to have a go-to spot for millinery vocabulary. This list focuses on the parts of a bonnet and the materials. This is going to be one of those “work in progress” posts as most of this is off the top of my head typed with my thumbs.

***Note: Terms that are not necessarily period but we tend to use in modern discussion will be in this color.

Bavolet  – The pleated or gathered fabric that goes along the neckline of the bonnet. Most commonly this is silk or silk ribbon, often set on the bias with a lining of net. Sometime lace was placed over the bavolet. The bavolet appears in the Romantic era and disappears in the later 1860s. Also called the Curtain.

Blonde – A silk bobbin lace originally natural in color, later in black. The motifs, frequently floral, are worked in a silk thread heavier than the ground.

Bobbinet – Machine made cotton or silk netting with hexagonal figures.

Brim – (1) The front part of a bonnet that encircles the face mostly vertically. (2) The bottom part of a hat the encircles the head horizontally.

Brussels Net – Plain net originally from Brussels.

Buckram – A cotton construction material that is woven and stiffened. Often a foundation that is wired and covered with fashion fabric.

Cane –  Long woody strips used in drawn bonnets. These can be round, semi-circular or flat. Also used in basket making. (try defining cane without saying cane.)

Cheektabs – The section of a bonnet that comes along the side of the head, curving downward along the jawline framing the cheek. Also called ______

Chip – Thin wood fibers plaited or woven to make a bonnet or hat.

Crepe – A puckered/crinkled fabric frequently associated with mourning when black. Modern crepe and 19th century crepe are not the same.

Crown –  The part of a bonnet or hat that sorta encompassed the head.

Leghorn – (1) A plait of Italian straw. (2) A shape/style of bonnet.

Lining – A material fully or partially covering the interior of a bonnet that protects the bonnet from the hair and the hair from the bonnet.

Net – Net is frequently found in two spots on a mid-19th century bonnet – a stiff cotton net lines the bavolet. A finer, softer, yet still crisp net in cotton or silk is used for the ruche.

Organdy – A thin, sheer plain weave silk or cotton with a crisp hand. (we tend to say organdy for cotton and organza for silk now.)

Plait – A braid of straw or horsehair.

Ribbon – Please see my ribbon page for information on ribbons.

Ruche-  The box pleated white ruffle just inside the brim around the face. Often a net, lace or sheer material in silk or cotton. “At some factories, ruches are made entirely by machinery. They are not as well nor as neatly put together, and do not sell as high as those made by hand.”(Employments of Women, Virginia Penny. 1860.) Also called the frill or cap by some.

Ties – Narrow (~1″) ribbon used to tie a bonnet on securely. These ties take the stress of wear rather than the wider decorative ribbons. Sometimes referred to as “utility ties” or “functional ribbons”.

Tip – The top most or back most part of the crown. It can be flat or rounded depending on the style.


For a better understanding of the fabrics, I suggest a good textile dictionary.

Published in: on May 7, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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