Thoughts on Late Eighteenth to Early Nineteenth Century Winter Millinery.

I’ve been poking around, looking at women’s winter head wear from 1750-1820, a range of time earlier than I’ve been focusing on for my collection and current research. While doing so, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rubbed my ears, the oddly shaped spot warped by frostbite some 20 plus year ago in particular. I have not had a problem staying snuggly warm in my 1850s or 1860s attire. Layers + hood = happy. Oh, plus no slip foot wear. But that is another story.

I look at paintings like this one and think “This is how you die.” Or, at least this is how you get yourself awfully sick standing on a balcony overlooking a pond off the shores of Erie in February. Okay, so I set the painting in a mental scene a few decades off. But, you get what I mean. This attire out in the blustery winds of the North East USA is a recipe for trouble. (British Museum painting)


A lovely blog, At the Sign of the Golden Scissor, helped me wrap my head around winter wear for these eras that are prior to my knowledge base. Bigger hair. Cloaks with big hoods. Short cloaks with big hoods that seem as much like big hoods with really long bavolets. Muffs. And winter illustrations with hats and bonnets. Okay.

This latter part does have me wondering about winters here compared to winters where the illustrations were drawn and published. I have a general idea that it is not as blustery in England. But, I have never looked at statistics. *add to to do list.*

The same blog nudged me towards the prints in the British Museum. There I found these two 1750s winter images with hood like garments. They were both captioned with the same:

“Winter in all her warmest Dress behold, / To guard her Body from the piercing Cold; // Her Hood and Mantle and her Velvet Muff, / All she can wrap about her’s scarce enough’ and ‘Printed for & Sold by Henry Overton at the White Horse without Newgate, & Rob.t Sayer at the Golden Buck opposite Fetter Lane, Fleet Street.'”


These illustrations depict winter head wear closer to what I expect: head encompassing warmth. The one on the left likely being a hood and cape combined, both trimmed with ermine. The one on the right being separates, the hood showing softness that may be quilted or wadded.

The very few extant quilted winter head wear pieces from the end of the 1700s into the early 1800s definitely are more drapey like a hood than structured like a bonnet. Here I have a Pin Board started.


LACMA Woman’s Hood United States, circa 1775 Silk sarsanet

This hood from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art seems to have a fairly simple construction and quilting pattern, doubled diagonal and vertical on the crown/brim and through the bavolet. The bavolet seems slightly shaped though the back, being longer and possibly curved. The original is done in silk sarsanet; replicating could be done in a lighter to mid weight silk taffeta. I speculate the interior could either be a polished cotton or another silk. But, those speculations are based on nineteenth century tendencies not eighteenth. As this hood can tie under the chin, bringing the lower brim and part of the bavolet in around the face, this seems to be a hood that would be suitable for someone moving.


MFA, 64.685 American, 18th century Silk damask, silk liing, quilting, silk ribbon

Another hood with a tempting construction is on the other end of the spectrum in terms of drafting. This MFA hood has a straight forward brim, but there is a particular curve to the back of the lappets into the neckline with a bavolet that is rather minuet compared to those of the mid-nineteenth century. The crown appears to rise for hair placed higher on the head. Without personal inspection or additional photos, I can only surmise the tip is circular, possibly oval. The three row of quilting follows the line of the brim and lappets, resulting mostly in a vertical appearance, which would give some support to the drape over the face. I am curious if there are any signs that this brim folded back. I have discovered this type of brim reaching forward of the face is wonderful in shielding the face from wind or snow/rain traveling with the wind. Even though this hood could be tied from the inside, I anticipate it would not be ideal for movement or working; it would be more suitable for walking or riding in a carriage.

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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