An exciting excursion took place earlier this year to the home of one of our most famous and respected gardeners; the late Christopher Lloyd.   He was one of six children, and grew up at Great Dixter, in Kent, where his mother Daisy Lloyd started the important garden it has since become.   Among the pictures displayed in the house is one of Daisy working in the garden, wearing a sunbonnet .   This was in the early 1920’s.   The archivist told me there was a box safely stored away, containing not one, but six of her sunbonnets from around that period.

Daisy Lloyd of Great Dixter. Original sunbonnets owned by,and probably made by her (2)

Here is one of them, in the picture above.   It is made of sprig-printed cotton fabric, ruched and corded in the traditional manner.   The whole family were frequently employed doing needlework (boys too) and many examples of needlepoint and other work exist around the house to this day.   It is extremely likely, given the tradition in the family, that Daisy made at least some of these bonnets herself.   I think it is safe to say this is a recorded provenance…the first I have been able to find.

There must be others.   I would be delighted to hear from anyone with photographs and/or actual examples that I could look at.


What is known in the USA as a sunbonnet is something resembling this sketch.                                                               What is known as a sunbonnet in the USA




These were made from patterned cotton fabric and known as ‘Pioneer bonnets’   As you can see, they are completely different from the English ones, having no cording or ruching, or the traditional curtain (bavolet) hanging down the back to protect the neck from the sun.

A little more has come to light regarding the ‘pocketed’bonnets referred to in the first part of ‘sunbonnets’.   Terri Jones, (Bittersweet Inc, 1981) refers to them as ‘split bonnets; and Costume Society of America author Rebecca Matheson, in her 2009 piece ‘The Sunbonnet’ says  “The Split Bonnet is an American icon in Texas”.








And here below, is another recent find.    This is  a sort of calash cum sunbonnet, with elements of both.

It is of curious construction, with some of  the stiffening going round in circles,  and not in hoops.   It is very pretty, but unless the strings are tied extremely tightly around the wearer’s head, it is of little use keeping the sun off !      The bavolet also is of a very curious design.   Nothing was known about it by the vendor.



Added October 2017.

3 thoughts on “SUNBONNETS again”

  1. The bonnet at the bottom is one that I’ve heard called a slat bonnet, because it has thin wooden (or cardboard) slats in the brim.
    When working at a museum, we used to do a Craft Week At Church Farm Museum, in Skegness, Lincolnshire. One day, a woman bought in one of these bonnets, and donated it, saying that it was worn by her grandmother in Herefordshire.


  2. Gladys Kelley said:

    my mother born 1907, her mother german mennonite from the Ukraine, my mom had a sunbonnet that had maybe only one button so that you could unbotton it to iron. There were no ruffles or gathering and it came down over her neck. A very simple sunbonnet and I wish I could find a pattern to make one like that


  3. my mothers had so slats, I think a piece of flannel between the two fabrics and sewing on the brim part and she would starch it. It needed no slats.


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