In the Victorian era, sunbonnets were worn outdoors to protect the face and dress from the sun. Because a white complexion was fashionable, subonnets were worn by ladies in the garden (straw hats were only worn at the seaside, in the country, or by young girls), as well as working women during field work.
The brim of sunbonnets was often corded or strengthened with slats. Sunbonnets could be made either from printed or plain fabric.
Here’s a pattern for a 1857 sunbonnet. In this painting, the woman in the middle is wearing a sunbonnet. And this painting shows a woman wearing a slat sunbonnet.
Here’s a 1857 photograph of a woman with sunbonnet (the brim doesn’t seem to be stiffened). This sunbonnet‘s brim also doesn’t seem to be stiffened with cords or slats. And another photograph of a woman with sunbonnet.
This painting shows probably a shepherdess with sunbonnet. And in this 1852 painting, the woman wears her sunbonnet like a hood.
My sunbonnet is made from washed-out mint green cotton (an old bedsheet 😉 ). It has a soft brim which can be folded back. For the brim, I’ve used two layers of fabric, whereas the crown and curtain are one layer. I’ve sewn the sunbonnet by hand in about 6 hours.
The sunbonnet is really comfortable to wear, light-weight and not warm. It protects the face and neck better from the sun than a sun hat – and it doesn’t get blown off so easily in windy weather. 🙂
Here are detail pictures of the sunbonnet and here I’m wearing the sunbonnet.