Bonnets And Bones

Her bonnet was nothing but a pointless decoration; a delicate failure.   Too small for protection, too light for balance – it was too pretty to be real. A tiny monument to silliness and frailty, it was perched on top of plaits of hair arranged like clenched hands.  It was false, useless and beautiful like the woman who wore it.   Her maid held it like a glittering child.  The lady wore it like a crown.

The Flock

 Scraps of lace, splashes of sequins, arcades of flowers, torn feathers…their patterns were lifelines of artificiality.  Small and complex like jewelry, they were made only to be handsome.  They were protected from a sudden breeze by a gloved hand quick to respond – like a mother reprimanding a child for going out into the cold without a coat.  No symmetry of lace would comfort that weakness; no knot of moiré ribbon could hold the flawed whimsy in place.

Velvet Trails

Yet for all of their frailties, their embarrassing sweetness, the perfume of weakness and memento mori…generations later they still exist.  But the names of their fey owners have been forgotten – and their bones have long vanished

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9 responses to “Bonnets And Bones

  1. I began the morning by discovering I nearly was born before the invention of chocolate chips (them, 1940 – me, 1946). And now I find this reminder of a childhood delight – the Easter bonnet.

    My grandmother and her neighbors wore bonnets in their gardens, utilitarian things made of the same fabric they patched into quilts. My bonnets were of voile and net and velvet, all attached to straw that had been dyed to resemble wearable Easter eggs.

    My favorite was a yellow floppy thing, my least favorite a robin’s egg blue pillbox. Funny, that the pillbox still was called a bonnet.

    So many memories!

  2. My grandmother’s bonnet wasn’t a pointless decoration or a wee bit of lace and ribbon! She wore a large white cotton sunbonnet similar to the ones in the Garth Williams illustrations in the “Little House” books. She wore it while working in the fields of her strawberry and grape farm back in the early 20th century. I could barely see her face while she was wearing it, which I guess was the point: it was supposed to protect the wearer from the fierce California sun. I suspect however that Grandma was more than happy to hang that bonnet up on Sundays and don a pretty hat for church.

    Oddly, after she died, the old bonnet was sent to the Smithsonian, where it sits today in the clothing collection, labeled with her name on it. So not all bonnet wearers are forgotten today, though Grandma probably would laugh to see hers in a museum!

  3. ShoreAcres – There is a photo (black & white…possibly tintype) of tiny me in my Easter bonnet, which was a complete barrage of ruffles. I wore my best Easter dress, and then when my parents were ready to go to church (we still did that) I howled so much that the entire triumphal journey was canceled.

    Hangaku – Oh, I never meant to disrespect your worthy grandmother!! I was just so taken by the frailty of the bonnets on exhibit in the museum – and wondered what sort of use as head coverings they must be.

    Wonderful story about her sunbonnet being in the Smithsonian clothing collection; I also bet she would laugh. But maybe she’d be a little delighted about being a piece of history: with the visitors coming away with her story and memory like gifts.

  4. That were the days, when clothes lasted longer than human!
    How to recognise a nouveau rich and an old aristo?
    The tweed of the jacket of the first is new, the other wears the same old thing few generations have wear already.
    I still wear my collection of hats when I garden to amuse the scarecrow, who himself amuse the birds sitting on him.

  5. Nice piece. Bones have long vanished, almost reminds me of some skeletal-less sea creature. One shopkeeper once told me that “some people leave their aura on the clothes they try on and never buy”. 😉

  6. Lovely fashion writing.
    I enjoy thinking of a hat as a frail thing, as you describe it. And yet the hats endure.

    PS Have you seen any of Kate Middelton’s hats? Lovely that the Brits continue to wear them. So traditionally posh.

  7. antiphonsgarden – good to have a garden full of humor! I bet the plants will grow high and happy.

    That difference between the nouveaus and aristos sounds just about right…and the aristos did RESENT it!

    Emmy – I believe the aura I left on the last dress I tried on was, ‘Zip up, goddammit!’ Or something like that.

    oh – I totally approve of traditional, as well as posh. Kate M. has been described as a fashion icon, which I don’t agree with, but she is a sharp little dresser. Safe, sharp, but no style.

  8. I adore your blog! Hugs! Ill b back!

  9. Aubrey: the marvelous bonnet makes me think of a velvety crusteacean climbing a reef of multicolored lace. May the whimsey of women last forever! RT

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