Bonnet (headgear)

From Academic Kids

This article is part of the
hats and headgear series:
Overview of headgear
Hats; Bonnets; Caps
Hoods; Helmets; Wigs
Masks; Veils; Scarves
Tiaras; Papal tiaras
Crowns; Types of crowns
List of hats and headgear

A bonnet is a kind of headgear which is usually brimless. Only a few kinds on bonnets are still worn today, most commonly by babies.


The most common kind of bonnet worn today is a soft headcovering for babies. They are usually knitted, and tie under the chin. They are shaped similarly to the kind of bonnets women used to wear, that is they cover the hair and ears, but not the forehead.


Bonnets worn by women and girls were generally brimless headcoverings which were secured by tying under the chin, and which covered no part of the forehead. They were worn outdoors or in public places like shops, galleries, churches, and during visits to acquaintances. Bonnets were one of the most common types of headgear worn by women throughout most of the 19th century.

If a bonnet had a peak it would extend from the entire front of the bonnet, from the chin over the forehead and down the other side of the face. Some styles of bonnets had a large peak which effectively prevented women from looking right or left without turning their heads. Others had a wide peak which was angled out to frame the face rather than restrict peripheral vision.

Most women in the 19th century would have had at least two bonnets – one suitable for summer weather, often made from straw, and one made from heavier fabric for winter wear. This is where the tradition of a Easter bonnet parade originated, when women would switch from their winter bonnet to their summer bonnet. Wealthier women would have many more bonnets, suitable for different occasions.


Bonnets worn by men and boys are generally distinguished from hats by being soft and having no brim - this usage is now rare (they would normally be called caps today) although the word has been preserved in the military glengarry bonnet for example.

The chile pepper Scotch Bonnet was named for its resemblance to a bonnet worn by men in Scotland (in the past).


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