by Gweneth Collins
Last Friday we updated the prairie sun bonnet collection at Washington County History Museum. Remember Grandma’s bonnet? Or maybe you had a bonnet when you were younger? Grandma grabbed hers every time she went outside. It would be tied neatly on her head or hanging on her shoulders.
In the past, the bonnet was considered a necessity. It shaded the face – getting tanned from working outdoors was considered “common”, kept the morning dampness away, shielded against wind, and held hair up off the neck. The large, stiff brim provided a form of modesty – protecting ladies from prying male eyes – and served as a blinder and sound blocker. It could even be a fan while sitting in the shade. The ruffle on the back protected the neck and shoulders from sunburn. It even kept the bees out!
Patterns for making bonnets were few and far between. Most were made following educated guesses. Fabric was at a premium, so bonnets were made from flour sacks, feed sacks, old dresses, old shirts, sheets or curtains. Grandma practiced recycling before recycling was cool. Larger pieces of fabric would be used for quilts, but all those scraps were perfect for bonnets.
Bonnets of the past were mostly for work, but there were “Sunday” bonnets with fancy brim ruffles, lace and ribbons. Bonnets fell out of fashion when other types of “hats” became readily available. Although the museum is closed at this time, drop by the museum at 685 7th Street any Friday in the future for a cup of coffee and we’ll be glad to share our collection with you.