Apr 112013

Regina Scott, Regency romance author, spent some time in Washington, D. C. during a cold snap. The sudden appearance of a plethora of hats in the city prompted her to think about the hats and bonnets worn by so many of those who lived during the Regency. In today’s article, Regina shares her thoughts about Regency hats.

I’m working in Washington D.C. this week, and the weather has turned chill. All around me, hats are popping up like daffodils in the spring. Most look snug and warm. I imagine that the beaver or silk top hats worn by young men in the nineteenth century might have offered some warmth as well.

I’m not so sure about these lovelies, from 1818.

Prints of Regency Bonnets

While these bonnets might offer protection from the sun, they were more likely worn for show. As you can see, the basic shape was the same, but the feathers, flowers, lace, and ribbon used made each bonnet a work of art. And the more fashionable you were, the more original the item covering your head.

I’ve often read of a chip bonnet, which I assumed was a small little thing. But books from the 1800s talk about "tremendous" and "huge" chip bonnets, so I admit I’m a bit mystified.

Print of ladies in Regency evening costume

For evening, you had turbans, caps, and the perennial favorite, ostrich plumes. One young lady in this picture from 1808 even has a top hat trimmed in ermine, matching the ermine lining of her evening cloak. Now she looks warm!

I wonder if they still sell those here in D.C.?

© 2007 – 2013 Regina Scott
Originally posted at Nineteen Teen
Posted at The Beau Monde by permission of the author.

  3 Responses to “It’s What’s on Top That Counts   By Regina Scott”

  1. I’ll have that hat and cloak trimmed in ermine please. Becasue of modern day sensibilities, I’ll even take them with man made fur or some of that soft plush material.
    Being one who usually needs a scarf on my head and something around my shoulders, I often wonder how people kept warm. It does seem to have been impossible to have been warm and fashionable at the same time. I am definitely on the side of warmth ; fashion can go hang. However, that hat and cloak might allow me to be both fashionable and warm.

    • My mother used to make costumes for the theatre, so we’re planning something for me to wear at The Beau Monde soiree in Atlanta this summer. Worried that the AC in the hotel could be a hazard in a low cut Regency gown, she noted that many women died of pneumonia during that time. Cashmire shawls were all the rage, but that wouldn’t make up for the UK damp and chill.

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