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Lincolnshire Sunbonnets

November 18, 2011

Actually taken in the 1980s

My first introduction to sunbonnets came just before the 1983 Lincolnshire Show. 

I’d started a temporary job at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in May, and had only been there a few weeks, when one day I was called away from what I was doing.  Arriving at the staff room, Lesley handed me a long black skirt and told me to put it on and go outside where a sunbonnet was plonked onto my head and a big basket thrust into my hands. 

What on earth was going on?  All was soon revealed.  A couple of guys from the local rag were there to do a bit for the Lincolnshire Show supplement…and here I am (with Kevin) on the front page…

Lincs Show supplement 1983

 And the article inside…

The way we were

When the photoshoot was over, I was able to have a good look at my temporary headgear.  It was a delightful Lincolnshire sunbonnet, and I was fascinated! 

Later on, whilst working in the store-room, I came across three boxes of these sunbonnets.  All else was forgotten, as I went through each box in turn, inspecting every bonnet, and grabbing a sheet of paper, I did some sketches and worked out how they were constructed. 

That evening I found some scraps of fabric and attempted to make a small bonnet, just to see how it would turn out, and when I was happy with the mock-ups I went on to make my first proper Lincolnshire bonnet. 

I was quite pleased with the results, and taking it in to work, showed everyone.  The feedback was all positive, and I remember someone saying that I should make more in children’s sizes, then they could be sold in the shop. 

And that, my friends, is how it all began…! 

I made this!

Trying to find out more about sunbonnets in general has not been an easy task, as documentation is very sparse.  Usually all that is available are paintings of pastoral scenes, prior to the advent of photography.  A few old bonnets in museum collections, often without provenance,are all we have to go by, some with sketchy details like where it was worn and by whom,  

When did women begin to wear them for protection whilst working in the fields?  Where did the patterns come from?  Could an old fabric bonnet, such as the examples shown in Empire/Regency fashion plates, have been found in an old chest and worn and the design caught on?

Costume Parisien 1812

Or perhaps those old corded bonnets continued to be worn and gradually developed into the popular Victorian sunbonnet?  I guess we will never know, but it is interesting to speculate, isn’t it!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 10:21 am

    We are looking for patterns for the Lincolnshire bonnet, please contact us if you can help

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