A Harvest Bonnet

A lady must always protect herself from the sun – even if she is out labouring in the fields. That was an unwritten rule in the 1880s. But a young lady always wanted to look her best, particularly when young men were around. This mix of required protection and desired perfection led to the harvest bonnet. We have such a bonnet at Market Lavington Museum.

A cotton harvest bonnet from the 1880s – find it on display at Market Lavington Museum

The bonnet is made of cool cotton and has pleats down the back to make sure that the neck is protected from the sun. At the front, the bonnet is large and floppy, giving a good chance of keeping the sun off the wearers face.

And, of course, the bonnet is pretty. Harvest time was one of the rare occasions when hired young men and hired young women actually worked together. Many a romance began and blossomed during the time when crops were gathered safely in. The idea was that the pretty and distinctive bonnet helped to catch the eye of an eligible young man. Unlike much of a working servant’s wardrobe this bonnet has been factory made. The stitching has been done by machine. It must have been important that this was a really good item of apparel.

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