Anatomy of a Drawn Bonnet

The technique of drawing silk or sheer fabric on to cane spanned millinery through most of the nineteenth century. The look can be absolutely stunning when done correctly.

This is one of those garments or accessories where it is absolutely essential to understand the construction of originals before embarking on a piece of your own. Luckily, Dannielle Perry has already written a beautiful book on drawn bonnets compiling an extensive grouping of extant examples. Buy this book!


As you read and look at originals, please note the anatomy of a drawn bonnet and its key aspects.

Anatomy DB2

A drawn bonnet is built on a foundation. This foundation was frequently willow, net, or buckram over a wire frame. This foundation gave the bonnet structure and the fashionable shape of the season.

The foundation helped define the main components of a bonnet: the tip, the crown, and the brim. While the drawn bonnet did create some variations in the shaping of these three areas due to the nature of the drawn silk over cane, these areas are still found on the vast majority of extant period drawn bonnets. Notice how the bonnet on the right has a round tip. This is a circle or an oval in nearly every Civil War era bonnet. Even when the bonnet has a “soft crown” such as the bonnet on the left, the basic shape underneath is still round for most bonnets. (There may be some exceptions in the minority. Dannielle – Is this the case for the brown and black bonnet on the second row all the way to the right?)

The beautiful texture that makes a drawn bonnet so very appealing is created by combining the silk and the cane or wire, upon which it is drawn. The fullness of the gathers, the spacing of the cane, the puffing of the silk between the cane, all create different looks. This is done with hand stitching to keep the gathwrs light and airy. Most drawn bonnets combine different spacing and gathering amounts to move the eye around the bonnet.

Sadly, there are some interpretations of the drawn bonnet that are promoted that simply do not have the basic construction elements of original drawn bonnets. Please avoid bonnets without a foundation, as well as bonnets that are drawn on plastic “bones.” These simply no not reflect the construction or look of the period.

If you want to learn even more about drawn bonnets….. Good News! Dannielle is teaching a class on drawn bonnets at this August’s Corsets and Cravats. Capture+_2018-12-20-11-44-35-1.png

Published in: on December 20, 2018 at 5:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

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