Why are Bonnets so Much?

[I wrote this around this time last year. It was just requested on a FB group. You may also be interested this chart “The Cost of Authenticity” from 2010.]

This is a question that comes up fairly regularly. Bonnets are expensive.wpid-2014-05-24-20.18.40.jpg This is because they require multiple materials and require time to make them. ???????????????????????????????

To give you an idea, here are the materials that go into finished drawn bonnets and straw bonnets along with the price ranges for each item:

Straw Bonnets

  • Straw plait ($20-$55 a skein depending on origin, plait and color)
  • Millinery wire ($20/coil)
  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Facing ($10-$20/yard)
  • Organza, net or lace for frill ($10-$30/yard)
  • Bavolet net ($32/yard)
  • Silk or Ribbon for Bavolet ($5/length to $30/length)
  • Ribbon for functional ties ($2.80)
  • Fashionable Ribbon ($4-$30/yard)
  • Flowers ($10-$40)
  • thread, sizing, etc

Drawn Bonnets

  • Buckram ($4-$12/yard)
  • Millinery Wire ($20/coil)
  • Cane ($15 coil)
  • Silk exterior fabric ($10-$30 yard)
  • Lining ($10-$15/yard)
  • Facing ($10-$20/yard)
  • Organza, net or lace for frill ($10-$30/yard)
  • Bavolet net ($32/yard)
  • Ribbon for functional ties ($2.80)
  • Fashionable Ribbon ($4-$30/yard)
  • Flowers ($10-$40)
  • thread, sizing, etc

To hand sew a straw form from straw plait, it takes between 6 and 10 hours depending on the type of plait and the shape of the bonnet or hat. Finishing and decorating varies.

Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Hats of Mine

I realized something today. I had a few people asking if I make hats for adults as well as children. I do. Of course I do. Oh, but they sell so fast, few people ever see the listings. Ooops

Here are some of the hats I’ve made. (These are just the photos I have on hand right now. I’ll add more asap.)

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Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Avoiding Millinery Mishaps

There were a few questions that came up when I asked for questions for the milliner that had to do with what not to do. I generally prefer to approach things from the positive. But then I saw this post “The Most Common Mistakes in Historical Costuming/Re-enactment- and how to avoid them“, which was written quite well and from a very helpful standpoint. So, I’m sorta stealing her format to look at the mishaps and mistakes that can happen with millinery.

The wrong shape or size for your face.

Perplexing 2This is a point of narrow margin. I believe women in the era followed fashion trends but also paid attention to what looked good on them. Not every bonnet suits, nor flatters every face shape. I hate seeing a perfectly lovely woman who looks like her head is squeezed into a bonnet that scrunches around her face or a woman who appears to have a teeny head floating in the midst of an enormous bonnet. I just want to hug them and give them something that will flatter them and bring their best features. (really, seriously, if I could I would.) Take a look at these two women to the right. Their image were taken at roughly the same time with similar, possibly the same attire. Each woman has a slightly different face shape and has subtle difference to their bonnets. The woman on the left has a squarer jaw line than the woman in the right who has a nearly oval face. One of the biggest mishaps I see for those with a squarer jaw line is to have a bonnet that hugs the sides of the face causing it to look squished or trapped. The bonnet on the left shows the periord way of avoiding this – The sides pull back further just above the ear allowing for the side of the bonnet through the cheektab to curve and angle forward. On the right, the sides of the bonnet are more ovular mimicking the oval shape of her face. The left softens the squareness of the jawline while the right mimics the soft curve.

A great hat/bonnet in the wrong era.

While there are some pieces of millinery from one era that are very similar to that of another era, pieces that distinctly belong in another time period stand out when they are misplaced. I do understand how it can be so tempting to pick up a beautiful Georgian piece and wear it to a Victorian event, it simply does not work 98% of the time.

secondI do happen to be more flexible about dressing out of fashion than many others. I actually don’t have a problem with dressing as much as a decade back if the character and situation so calls for it. Robert Dowling’s Breakfasting Out really emphasizes this for us. The artist depicts women in head wear that spans easily ten years, possibly fifteen years, in a single public scene.

Wearing the wrong millinery for your social class or situation.

We tend to talk about bonnets in two categories: fashion and sun, which may accidentally cause us to compartmentalize fashion into an upper class garment and sun into a lower class garment. This is not the case. What we often call ‘fashion’ bonnets, those structurally made of wire & buckram/willow/net or those of straw, spanned up and down social strata. (We really need to figure out what they would have called their bonnets.) The same span also existed for sun bonnets.

Clunky materials.

There is something about clunky materials that stand out even more than synthetic materials to me. Now, I’m not approving of a poly-taffeta for your bonnet either. I’m saying clunky cotton or poly cotton laces scream at me, as do thickly spun or loosely woven silks. These are not the materials of the vast majority of 19th century millinery. Fabrics, laces and net were fine and light. Even the bonnets that were made from velvets or corded materials were still made with versions often lighter than those we commonly see today.

Trims that will bleed.

To great dismay, and often tears, ladies have found that some beautiful flowers or feathers are not color-fast. While most of us fear the rain when we have a pricey bonnet on, it is at times the slightest sprinkle or even heavy humidity that can cause the dye to run.  The biggest culprits are brightly dyed feathers and paper flowers.

Bad advice.

I sorta feel like a jerk as a blog writer saying “don’t listen to that blog writer”. But, I am. There are several quick and cheap millinery advice posts out there. I plead with you – Do not follow them!

Do not make a bonnet out of a cereal box. Do not use duct tape on a bonnet. Do not use quilters templates nor plastic cross-stitch canvas to make a bonnet. Some of these may be okay for a Halloween costume or middle-school play. They are not correct for a historical site, nor are they healthy when you consider how much heat some of these materials can trap against your head.

Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bonnet Stays

This is the long, long, long since requested post on bonnet stays.

What is a bonnet stay? A bonnet stay is a band inside the mid-nineteenth century bonnet that helps hold the bonnet on the wearer’s head. In the nineteenth century, bonnet stays were also called “cross-bands”, “bandeau” or “traverse” (though these words could also mean other things.)

“A cross-band of black velvet that lies on the hair is trimmed on the right hand side with a group of rose-buds.” (Peterson’s Magazine, 1855)

A row of black lace covers the cross-band and forms a fanchon” (Peterson’s Magazine, 1864)

What were bonnet stays made from? Stays we have been able to identify have been made out of velvet ribbon, velvet fabric, cording and wire. This yellow trimmed horsehair &/or straw bonnet shows a wrapped wire stay. In the one image, you can get an idea of how the stay holds the bonnet on the head. The stay connects to both sides of the interior of the bonnet. Is sits on the head as a headband would, crossing over the head from ear to ear, actually above the ear.

From the Timely Tresses Collection featured in Fashionable Bonnets for the Introduction of the Ambrotype in 1854 through the end of the Civil War in 1865.

“From the Timely Tresses Collection featured in Fashionable Bonnets for the Introduction of the Ambrotype in 1854 through the end of the Civil War in 1865.

From the Timely Tresses Collection - Fanchon bonnet with covered cross-band. Notice the stitches used to attach the band that are visible on the left.

From the Timely Tresses Collection – Fanchon bonnet with covered cross-band. Notice the stitches used to attach the band that are visible on the left.

Dannielle Perry bonnet for stays post 3

From the Timely Tresses Collection – An early 1860s bonnet with a cross-band.

Dannielle Perry bonnet for stays post 2

From the Timely Tresses Collection – An Empire bonnet with a velvet stay/cross-band behind the cap/frill.

How do I make a bonnet stay?

This is a bonnet I had to very quickly make overnight from what straw I could find. The shape is very loose and flat. This stay holds it on rather well.

This is a bonnet I had to very quickly make overnight from what straw I could find. The shape is very loose and flat. This stay holds it on rather well.

To add a stay to your bonnet, you will need velvet ribbon. I suggest purchasing half a yard, a half to three-quarters of an inch wide in a shade that will blend in well with your hair color or bonnet.

Hold the ribbon on your head with the velvet side down against your hair, running from ear to ear so you can feel where it is going to need to sit. Measure a couple finger widths up from the top of each ear and slide a pin in to mark that spot.

Put your bonnet on, positioned how it should fit. If you are nimble with your fingers, slide the pins that are in the ribbon into the inside of the bonnet. If that is too fiddly, pin the inside of the bonnet with separate pins just above the ears a couple finger widths.

Remove the ribbon and bonnet. Secure the ribbon into the bonnet with pins. Try the bonnet on for fit. You should be able to move your head without the bonnet shifting. (I was able to walk into 40mph parade winds without my bonnet coming off.) You may need to repeat the adjusting, pinning and trying on a few times before it is comfortable. Once you have the right fit, tack the ribbon in place securely. I suggest folding the end of the ribbon under and using a thread that matches the exterior of the bonnet.

What else keeps a bonnet in place?

Beside a bonnet stay other characteristics of a bonnet, a mid-century bonnet, helps keeps it in place.  ~The combination of the frill and the interior flowers play a big, no, make that huge part in holding a bonnet in place. It is possible to take an early 60s bonnet that would want to slide right off the head un-adorned and arrange the frill and flowers such that the bonnet will perch in place as it should. The backside of the frill and flowers sort-of catch and hold the hair, keeping the bonnet in place. ~The overall balance front to back is a big help. If a bonnet is weighted towards the tip or the bavolet, the bonnet will want to slide backwards. If the flowers in the brim or on the top/side of a bonnet are heavy, the bonnet will shift forward or sideways. Keeping a balance is a matter of positioning as well as weight. ~ For some shapes, the cheektabs actually help hold the bonnet in place as they hug the side of the head, not the face, the head. ~Your hair placement and style can also be a factor in how a bonnet fits. For some years (more 50s) the hair arrangement goes inside the tip of the bonnet. For other years (more early 60s) the tip rest over or on the hair. In either case, the hair anchors the tip whether it is encasing or sitting on the hair. Another hair aspect to keep in mind is simply having too much or too deep of a hair arrangement for a shallow tipped bonnet. (If you naturally have a lot of hair and a large hair arrangement ask for a deeper tip.)

I will add some additional photos once I take them.

Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Comments (8)  
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Show Your Millinery Give-Away!!!!

I’ve been a bit grumpy and stressed lately. Time to cheer things up!

It is time for a Give Away!!!

1878 natural form editThe Prize: Making its debut this weekend… GCV is releasing its Centuries of Fashions Cards–!!! Each set includes 12 high quality photos of fashion from 1790 to 1912 worn by the museum’s models. The winner will receive one of these very first sets. Future sets will include pieces from the Greene Collection!

The Deadline: Friday, the 22nd of May

The Ways to Enter:

wpid-2015-02-21-13.22.02.jpg.jpegFirst, Show Me Your Millinery! Take a photo of you wearing a piece of millinery I made and Share it on Facebook, Twitter or in the Comments below. Be sure link it back to this give-away and to tag me so I see it. (Don’t own a piece of my millinery yet? If you have a friend who will let you enter with her bonnet or hat, you can enter that way too.)

wpid-2015-02-21-13.21.54.jpg.jpegSecond, Inspire Me! I love the inspiration the world around me offers. The color, the texture, the beauty of the natural world provides a palette of inspiration for when I sit down to work. Take a photo of something you think will inspire a beautiful bonnet or hat. Share it on Facebook, Twitter or in the Comments below. Be sure link it back to this give-away and to tag me so I see it. 
I will compile all the photos to share in a blog post that will announce the winner.

Spring straw bonnet banner 2015Third, Buy Millinery! Stop by my Etsy shop. For each purchase, you will be entered. 

The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, May 22nd!    

Published in: on May 6, 2015 at 4:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Show Your Millinery Give Away!!!

I’ve been a bit grumpy and stressed lately. Time to cheer things up!

It is time for a Give Away!!!

1878 natural form editThe Prize: Making its debut this weekend… GCV is releasing its Centuries of Fashions Cards–!!! Each set includes 12 high quality photos of fashion from 1790 to 1912 worn by the museum’s models. The winner will receive one of these very first sets. Future sets will include pieces from the Greene Collection! (Image created by Tantalo Studio, Rochester, NY)

The Deadline: Friday, the 22nd of May

The Ways to Enter:

Spring straw bonnet banner 2015First, Show Me Your Millinery! Take a photo of you wearing a piece of millinery I made and Share it on Facebook, Twitter or in the Comments below. Be sure link it back to this give-away and to tag me so I see it. (Don’t own a piece of my millinery yet? If you have a friend who will let you enter with her bonnet or hat, you can enter that way too.)

wpid-2015-02-21-13.21.54.jpg.jpegSecond, Inspire Me! I love the inspiration the world around me offers. The color, the texture, the beauty of the natural world provides a palette of inspiration for when I sit down to work. Take a photo of something you think will inspire a beautiful bonnet or hat. Share it on Facebook, Twitter or in the Comments below. Be sure link it back to this give-away and to tag me so I see it. 
I will compile all the photos to share in a blog post that will announce the winner.

Third, Buy Millinery! Stop by my Etsy shop. For each purchase, you will be entered. 

The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, May 22nd!    

Published in: on May 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Comments (2)  

The Plain Straw Hat (or Bonnet)

The Plain Straw Hat

Published in: on April 30, 2015 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How Do I Store My Bonnet(s)?

wpid-2013-10-26-10.34.27.jpgOne of the “Ask the Milliner” questions was about storing bonnets. I did answer it. But, now I feel like I want to say more about it.

There are a few layers or directions with this:

  • Short term vs Long term storage
  • Home storage vs Event/Site storage
  • Stationary storage vs Mobile storage

There are a few things to consider with each.

For long term storage, meaning the storage from year to year at home, you will want to consider the containers you use and the environment they will be stored in. If you have anything original, antique or vintage on your bonnet, you may want to consider using archival boxes and paper. If you have a moisture or mouse issue, you will want a more air-tight and nibble proof container. Since I house my bonnets inside my home and don’t generally use original materials, I use a Sterilite tote (right)

that fits 2 bonnets comfortably and 3 if need be without squeezing. The totes sit on their shelves that are adjusted to the height of the totes.

Ideally, I would have a head form or stand inside each tote for each bonnet to keep the weight of the bonnet from crushing the bavolet or misshaping the cheektabs. If this is not possible, the least crushable position in my opinion is to have the bonnet sit on the tip facing upward. This is assuming there are no decorations on the back of the tip.

Ribbons can wrinkle or sag while stored. A trick for the long, loose ribbons is to take acid free tissue and roll it into in a tube shape. Start at the end of the ribbon and roll it up neatly. Repeat on the opposite side. If the bonnet is on a stand, tuck the ribbon between the cheektabs and the stand. If it is on the tip, set the ribbon rolls inside. For the loops of bows or decoration, take the same tissue rolled into light balls. Tuck the tissue balls inside the loops. You may want to do this to support any particularly large, heavy flowers. I find light, delicate decorations are best left without anything touching them.

For mobile storage, such as moving or long distance transportation to & from events, you will want to consider how the bonnet(s) will move inside the box. I have found that a tote of boxes when turned on end causes the bonnets inside to all fall on their bavolets. When this is not caught, it takes hours to try to steam out the wrinkles and get the right shape back. Keeping the bonnets from moving can save a lot of trouble later. This can be done with tissue as it is light yet helps hold in space. I would avoid using anything heavy or bulky inside with a bonnet as it may cause crushing rather than helping.  My dream fix is a stand attached to the bottom of the box and a gentle way of attaching the bonnet to the top of the stand.

carrying 2For event or site storing/carrying/displaying, you will want a period correct option. This pretty much comes down to bandboxes, bonnet baskets and a couple other unique options. While currently we are offered circular hat boxes with nifty cords looping about them, mid-nineteenth century boxes were a bit different. First, most were a different shape. They were an oval, squared off oval or a rounded off rectangle. Second, they did not have the nifty cords. Third, they were generally much stronger than many of the thin boxes sold today. In my opinion, when looking for a band box, you want one that is strong, thick walled, large enough for a bonnet to lay on its tip, and with a period paper or able to be recovered.wpid-2015-04-15-16.14.24.jpg.jpeg As the oval shapes are not easily found currently, I have found deep round boxes are nice for short term bonnet transportation (ie in the car to an event) and wider round boxes do okay as long as they are strong.

I almost forgot. I wanted to say something about size. Looking at the oval and ovalesque boxes used for millinery, most offered at auction or on museum sites: The lengths seem to range from 15″ to 22″ with 18″ being the most frequent. The widths seem to range from 12″ to 18″ with the width proportionately increasing with the length. The depths or heights seem to range from 8″ to 15″ with more landing between 10″ and 14″. Of course there are larger and smaller bandboxes. There seem to be a good number of extant boxes just smaller than those I grouped. Just looking at images with notes, I can not say what their particular use was.

imageNow, if you’ve ever tried to carry a stack of bandboxes, especially in a breeze, you know it isn’t easy to the point of comical. This is where bags come in – shaped to fit the bottom of a bandbox, tall enough to carry at least 2. I find these are essential as I can carry 2, 3, 4 band boxes of bonnets up and down the stairs or across the village at the same time.

Further Reading:

“Strike Up the Band(box)!”

For those doing period traveling (there are many other articles here of travel):

Bandboxes are seldom used now, except for the convenience of conveying a cap, bonnet,
or dress to the house of a friend or milliner. They are rarely found among the baggage of a
genteel female traveler, square wooden boxes, with locks, keys, and handles, being substituted
for them. These wooden boxes are generally tall enough to contain a folded dress under the
bonnet or other millinery, and should be painted on the outside. They will last for many years,
will bear exposure, and can go outside with the rest of the baggage. Tall square leather trunks
are sometimes used for carrying bonnets, &c. A paste-board bandbox ought to have a strong
loop of twine, red tape [red cotton twill tape used to tie documents together], or galloon [a
trimming of wool, silk, cotton, worsted or a combination of fiber], passed through one side, large
enough to slip over the hand in carrying it. To secure the lid, bore two holes in it near the edges,
one on each side, and pass through them strong pieces of string, each about a quarter of a yard in
length, fastened by a knot on the inside. Make two corresponding holes near the upper edge of
the bandbox itself, and pass a similar string through each of them. Then put on the lid, and tie
each pair of strings in a tight bow knot. These is no better way of keeping a bandbox fast. (Miss Leslie’s House-Book)
Published in: on April 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm  Comments (3)  

Today is the FanU “Blue Swap” Sign-up Day

BluesToday is the day to sign-up for the FanU The Blue Swap!

For Blue Swap, we will exchange Blue color fabrics from the 19th century.

We will mail our fabrics on March 30th

Please read all the details below. 

To Sign-up, simply comment below with your email and mailing address. (I’ll erase those before approving your comment, so the whole world doesn’t have that info.)

What is a Swap?

This is a chance for to exchange fabric with a small group of people. Each group will have 8 people exchanging pieces of fabric. All you need is a half yard of fabric and envelopes along with your copy of Fanciful Utility.

To Participate:

1: Sign Up Day!
On sign-up day, groups will be assigned on a first-in basis; the first eight will be the first swap group, second eight in the second group, etc. **Please be certain you will be able to fully participate by mailing your fabrics on the Mail-Out Date.**

The Blue Swap Sign-Up Day: March 20th

 

2: Mail-Out Day:
Place a 9×9″ piece of fabric suited to the mid-19th century in envelopes for each of the 7 other people in your swap group, stamp them (be sure to double check at the post office, but the small 9×9″ pieces should mail in a regular envelope with a normal stamp), and send them off no later than the Mail-Out Day.

The Blue Swap Mailing Day: March 30th

 

3: Get Fanciful!
Use your Fanciful Utility templates and techniques to make a project from the book, or copy your own from 19th century sources. We’ll all look forward to seeing your projects! You don’t have to sew right away, but don’t keep us waiting forever to see all the fun things!

(If you need a copy of Fanciful Utility, you can purchase them from the publisher at www.thesewingacademy.com

Fabric Guidelines:

  1. For the cotton and silk categories, your fabric should be early to mid-nineteenth century appropriate. (If there is a want for an earlier or later group, we can do that.) Prints and motifs should reflect those available in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. Cotton should be 100% cotton. Silk should be 100% silk.
  2. To keep the swap and sewing possibilities interesting, please avoid solids as best we can.
  3. Fabrics that do not work well for sewing cases should not be swapped. These include sheers, gauzes, heavy, thick, easy-to-fray, slippery and stretch fabrics.
  4. For the “crazy swap” category, think crazy quilt in a sewing case. This could include satins, velvets, textured fabrics. Quality synthetic fabrics are invited.

Swapper Guidelines:

  1. Please be certain you can fully participate in the swap before you sign-up.
  2. If something arises after you sign-up that will effect the date you are mailing your fabrics, please email your group so everyone is aware.
  3. If you fail to fully participate in a swap, you will not be able to sign-up for future swaps. (We do understand medical and family emergencies. I need to be able to ensure swappers will receive fabrics when they send fabrics out.)

Q&A

Yes, you can participate in 1, 2 or 3 of the swaps.

Yes, if we end up with multiple groups, you can participate in more than one group to swap more fabric. If you participate in 2 groups, you should swap 2 fabrics.

Yes, you can swap large and small scale prints.

Yes, you can swap now and sew later.

Yes, we would love to see what you’ve made with the swapped fabric.

Yes, you can use your own fabric in your swapped project.

Published in: on March 20, 2015 at 6:01 am  Comments (7)  
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“The Old Bonnet” by Henrietta N. Babb.

“I do so wish Sallie Curtis would not wear that old bonnet!” exclaimed a lady, as she entered the parlor of a fashionable boarding-house, which some half dozen families miscalled “home” – that sweet word, which the heart can only apply to the place that shelters our own household band!

“Why does Miss Curtis’ bonnet trouble you? Asked her husband, laughingly.

“Trouble me? indeed it does – indeed it does – it takes away all my comfort in church! It looked badly enough in the early part of the season, but now that all the ladies in the pews around them have such elegant new hats, Sallie and her mother do look most forlorn in their old straws!?

“Is her mother’s as bad as hers?”

“Yes; and a hundred times worse. IT is shameful for ladies in their position to dress so meanly! I beg your pardon, Mrs. T—-, I did not see you,” said the last speaker, with a blush.

“Oh, you need not apologize to ma, she sees Cousin Sallie’s hat in the same light in which you do, and aunt’s too!” spoke up a young lady, at the side of the person addressed.

“Yes, indeed; and I am not surprised at their being the subject of remark. I told them it would be so, when I saw them fixing up their bonnets, (for they trimmed them themselves with ribbon they had in the house;) but I hoped then they would be worn for a few weeks, until cold weather set in; but they are bent on making them do service during the entire winter! Such a foolish notion as my sister-in-law has in her head; because this is a hard winter, and business men are cramped for money, she is determined to save a dime wherever she can, without causing actual suffering to herself and family! I am lecturing her continually on the absurdity of her course, but I cannot mover her. I told her that Sallie could not possibly do without a new bonnet this winter, even if she did. A married lady, you know, may occasionally enjoy the privilege of being careless about her own dress; people take it for granted that in her anxiety about her family, she has forgotten herself; but it is absolutely necessary for a young lady to be always well dressed, and I am sure I am ashamed of Sallie, this winter! My Julia wouldn’t wear her best hat, even for ‘a hack bonnet’”

“No, that I would not!” said the young lady. “I should be afraid of losing caste, if I did so!”

“But I thought Mr. Curtis was a man of wealth!” said an intimate friend to Mrs. T— , in a lower tone.

“He is considered so; but now even the wealthiest men are embarrassed, you know. My husband says that one dollar, this winter, is worth more than two were last year!” she said laughing.

“But you are not obliged to economize?” and the speaker glance at the rich velvet, costly furs, and the “lovely hat,” in which Mrs. T— was arrayed.

“Me! oh, I can’t do it; and if I could, where would be the use of worrying and slaving myself to asve a little here, and a little there? What would it all amount to, in the end? A few hundred dollars, which, if my husband is going to fail, could not prevent him, and which I may as well enjoy while I can! My sister-in-law says that if her husband becomes involved, it shall not be through any extravagance of hers; and that she is resolved

to make no unnecessary purchases this winter. I represented to her that with all her efforts, she could not save more than a trifle, and that she had better give up the struggle and take things as they come; but her earnest answer was – ‘No, Elizabeth, although the sum may be ever so trifling, I am resolved to exercise self denial, in order that I may have the satisfaction of feeling that I have done what I could!” It has really become quite a mania with her, and Sallie just like her mother. Whenever I tell her of anything she needs, her reply invariably is – ‘I can do without it at present, for we wish to economize,’ or, ‘we are trying to retrench.’
“What a pity! She is such a fine-looking girl, when well-dressed!”

“I know it; and I am so glad you alluded to her dress, for I meant to tell her it has been remarked upon, and I shall do my best to prevent her face being again seen under that old bonnet!”

The ladies who carried on the above conversation, and a listener, of whom they little dreamed. Mr. R—, a wealthy and elegant gentleman, who had spent several years in Europe, and had lately returned home, with nothing to do but to seek enjoyment and a wife, lay on a sofa in the adjoining parlor trying to reed, but unconsciously taking in all that the ladies said.

“So Miss T— would be afraid of losing caste, if she wore a bonnet as her cousin’s, would she?” he repeated to himself sneeringly. “How finely her position in society must be established, if so a slight a thing as a straw hat could hurl her from her place! When will our women have that noble independence which should be their birthright?” and as the voices died away, he lay musing for some time upon the old straw bonnet, and its wearer.

Despite the eloquent way in which Mrs. T—- reported to her niece the remarks that had been made upon her old bonnet, Sallie’s pretty face was still seen under it at church, and on the street.

“You foolish child!” the aunt persisted, “what are ten or fifteen dollars to your father, in his business, when he has thousands of dollars to pay out almost every day?”

“Very little, I know; but then the consciousness that I am trying to lighten his cares, is a great deal to me; and mother says that the feeling of independence, which we call forth by our self-denial, will be lasting benefit to me.”

“Pshaw! you don’t know the disadvantage it may prove to you! Just in an age when the appearance you make will have a great influence on your future destiny; it is all –important that you should look as well as possible; and what girl can appear in an old bonnet?”

“Mother, just think of it,” exclaimed Julia T—, a few days after. “Sallie fancies she can go to that party in the with dress that she has worn, I don’t know how many times!”

“You don’t mean to say that she had not made a new dress for this occasion?”

“So she says.”

“Well, then she had better stay at home, that’s all!”

“So I told her myself. I wouldn’t go into society in an old dress, if I never went at all, for I should not expect to receive the least attention! But let me tell you the funniest thing you ever heard, Ma!” continued the young lady, laughing immoderately, as if she just recalled something excessively ludicrous. “She thinks she can’t even afford a new pair of gloves for the party, and so what do you suppose she has done? Taken soap and milk and cleaned the pair she wore to Mrs. C—-‘s; I laughed ready to kill myself, when she showed them to me with the assurance that they were ‘just as good as new!”

“How did they look?”

“I couldn’t see for laughing’ and just think mother, they have dismissed the seamstress, and Sallie is going to do the family-sewing, until times are easier, she says!”

“Why, is there anything especially wrong in her father’s affairs?”

“Oh, no; only the old story of, ‘he is embarrassed, and I wish to do what I can!”

It is said “stone walls have ears;” I do not know how true it is, but somehow or other, Mr. R—- overheard this conversation, as distinctly as he had the one about the old bonnet.

One word respecting that gentleman. Young ladies said he was about thirty; certainly spinsters and affirmed that he was “all of thirty-five,” while he laughingly owned to thirty-three; but he was so lively and interesting in conversation, that even very young girls forgot his age.

After the above revelations respecting the economy of Miss Curtis’ toilet, he certainly expected her to present a shabby appearance at the party; and he began to dread seeing her pass through the trying ordeal of feeling herself the most illy-dressed person in the room; and enduring the slights consequent upon that circumstance, she did not appear until quite late, and as he looked around upon the rich satins and gorgeous silks, in which many of the guests were arrayed, he found himself hoping that she might not come at all.

“There is one young lady here, dressed in such pure artistic taste, can you tell me who she is?” inquired a friend at his elbow. “There talking to that tall man with the light hair!”

Mr. R—- looked, and recognized Sallie. But he sought in vain for evidence of her dress being old, or unfit to grace a scene like that. Its snowy folds were a positive relief to the eye, dazzled by so much splendor, while her dark hair – which formed so fine a contrast to her alabaster skin and white dress – was most tastefully arranged, and ornamented with a few white rose-buds. The effect of that simple toilet was perfect, but he remembered what had been said of the gloves, and looked eagerly at her hands.

“If they are the same, she was right in pronouncing them as good as new,” he said to himself; and so absorbed was he by these profound reflections, that he almost forgot to reply to his friend.

The crisis that business men had apprehended came, and those whose credit had stood highest, were the first to fail. Among them was Mr. Curtis.

“So it seems that with all your worrying and economy, you were not able to keep your father from failing!” said Mrs. T— to her niece.

“No, aunt, we did not expect to be able to do that.”

“Then your wisest course would have been to enjoy life while you could. Here you have been denying yourselves all winter to no purpose!”

“But, as mother says, we have the satisfaction of feeling that since father has been pressed for money, we have not cause him one needless expenditure!” and she looked radiantly happy.

“Will you permit me, Miss T—, to ask you a direct question?” Inquired Mr. R—, , of that young lady, as they found themselves left alone in one of the parlors.

“Certainly,” was the gracious reply, “ask me any question you like, since I can use the privilege of replying to it or not, just as I happen to be in the vein!”

“But I hope you will deign to answer this one in which I am greatly interested – is Miss Curtis much depressed at her father’s failure?”

The question was different from what Julia had anticipated, but she replied with a laugh –

“Depressed! you should see her! Were I in her place, I confess that I should be plunged into the depths of woe, at the thought of the retrenchments, and the changes that must be made in their style of living; but Sallie is as light-hearted as a bird!”

“Perhaps she does not realize it yet!”

“Oh yes she does; and she has her plans all laid out as clearly as we had to note down the various revolutions on our historical charts at school, and she talks about their moving into a small house, and keeping only one servant, as gayly as if she were planning a pleasure trip! And that is not all, she says she has been reviewing her studies with a view of teaching, so that they can thus continue her little sisters at the expensive schools they are attending. Just think of her stooping to become a teacher, isn’t it absurd?”

“I confess, I should prefer seeing her occupy a different position,” said Mr. R—-, with emphasis.

As long as her father lives he ought to be able to support her, and I told her that if I were in her place, I would reserve that degradation for some greater emergency; but she said she would rather prepare herself, by her own exertions, for any emergency.”

“I suppose they see no company now?”

“Oh yes, just the same as usual.”

Mr. R—- called on Sallie that evening, and to his delight found her alone. He was really relieved at seeing no cloud on her young face but instead, such a joyous expression as only springs from a happy heart.

In a manner not to be misunderstood he told her how glad he felt at seeing her thus, and she answered frankly –

“Why should I not be happy? My father is reduced, but he can never be dishonored! Perfect integrity and uprightness have characterized all his dealings, and if he has been unfortunate, the way in which he bears up under it makes me more proud of him than ever!” and tears filled her eyes as she spoke. “I don’t know much about business,” she added with a smile, “but I am told that all my father’s liabilities are to be met, so that no one else is to suffer through his failure.”

“But do you not shrink from the changes that must take place?”

Sallie wondered to herself why it was that she felt so perfectly free with Mr. R—, it seemed as if they had known each other all their lives as she answered -,

“Oh no, there is nothing very hard in that! Cousin Julia has been trying to convince me that I ought to be very wretched, but she did not succeed in her mission.”

There was a pause, and then the conversation renewed by Mr. R—-, but we are not going to tell the reader what he first said, though all the light that he can get upon the subject from the remarks that follow, he is welcome to. Mr. R—- spoke for about ten minutes in an earnest tone. Sallie, at first, looked down, and then raised her eyes to his face with an inquiring glance. At length she said —

“Had you spoken so, to me, half an hour ago, I should have supposed you ignorant of the change in our circumstances; but you know all.”

“I do!” was the answer, and he went on to tell Sallie of the effect that knowledge had produced upon him, and again the conversation was too earnest and tool low for our ears. At last he seemed to be urging her to reply, and if we give her answer, just as it fell from her cherry lips, we shall have to record the very trite words, “ask father!”

“Are you aware , sir, of my failure!” inquired Mr. Curtis, in answer to something Mr. R—- said to him next morning in his counting-room. “My daughter is now penniless!”

“I know all that,” was the reply; “but she is a fortune in herself!”

“That is most true; and, since you can appreciate her, take her, and may God bless you in proportion as you make her happy!”

“Thank you for the precious gift!” said Mr. R—–, much affected; “and now, sir, may I talk a little about business?”

The merchant bowed.

“I have lately received, from a relative, an overlooked-for gift of thirty thousand dollars, upon condition that I will go into some kind of business. I have been puzzled to know how to invest it, for, of business matters, I am sorry to say, I am most profoundly ignorant. You have experience and patience to bear with my want of knowledge; now, are you willing to consider my ready cash equal to your practical information, and so take me as a partner?”

The business arrangement being satisfactorily concluded, Mr. R— was urgent to have the wedding take place as soon as possible.

“Why didn’t you offer him the use of your money before, it might have saved his failure?” ask a friend of Mr. R—.

“I did long to do so, but was afraid to have the girl I loved feel that she was under obligations to me! I never could have hoped to win her affections then!”

“Pshaw! that would have been the very way to get her!”

When Mrs. T— and other friends were offering their congratulations to the blushing Sallie, her husband said —

“By the way, aunt, did I ever tell you what caused me to fall in love with your niece?”

“Her own loveliness, of course, drew our your love!”

“No such thing! it was her old straw bonnet!”

“Why, aunt, you told me, I don’t know how many times, that my old bonnet would prevent my ever marrying!”

“How had that fright of a hat anything to do with your admiration?”

“Why, you see, I wanted a companion in a wife; not a mere doll to please my fancy by her pretty face and costly dress; so I said to myself, ‘a girl who can reason thus correctly about economy, and who has independence enough to carry out that reasoning by wearing an old bonnet, has a mind above the ordinary herd, and powers of which any man might be proud?’”

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