The Versatile 18th Century Market Hat

On my trip to Colonial Williamsburg this week, I decided to be bold and attempt to underpack. The idea of wearing a different or new dress every day is a modern one, a difficult one to break, but is it really so “bad” to wear the same gown more than once?

As it stands, I have five outfits for five days, but depending on the weather I may be wearing the Chemise or the cotton jacket more than once. I like contingency, but I hate heavy luggage.

One thing that will be consistent, though, is my headgear.

Enter the Market Hat.

Screencap from Sew 18th Century, item is from Colonial Williamsburg, accession number 1993-335

Market hats, or bonnets, were worn for the last thirty years of the 18th c., and well into the Regency period, changing little in design due to sheer practicality. They could be worn over high hair, wide hair, or just a cap, and were excellent sun protection, the black fabric shielding the eyes from glare.

I have one waiting for me as a gift (made from this pattern), and I’m super excited! It somehow pairs perfectly with everything I’m taking for outfits, and also matches all of my accessories.

Here are some primary source examples:

Museum of London – 1773 – a very interesting bonnet design in the lower right

1775 – 12 fashionable head dresses – lower right corner has an examples of a bonnet with a fairly slim profile
Museum of London – 1780 – a fluffy market bonnet in the middle right

The British Museum, 1782
Magasin des Modes, December 1789 – Dames a la Mode 
Chemise Grecque – October 1789, from the Journal des Luxus und der Moden
Journal de la Mode et du Gout, April 1790 – Dames a la Mode

Many more prints and examples can be seen on Maggie’s Pinterest board here.

A few excellent modern recreations:

Maggie’s black market hat – Undressing the Historical Lady 
The Couture Courtesan

black silk bonnet, 1770-1790
A Fashionable Frolic – instructions and helpful hints (click through)

Bonnets Ready-Made to Purchase:
Fashions Revisited – three market hat styles for the 1770s-80s and 90s. $85-$95
Arachneattire on Etsy – 18th century and Regency bonnets in a variety of colors. $70-$80

Available Patterns:
Undressing the Historical Lady on Etsy – $20 – instant download
At the Sign of the Golden Scissors – $15


  • PinhousePlaymate

    June 7, 2015 at 10:16 PM

    I recently went on an annual 4 daysportscar trip in a car with virtually NO storage space. Packing for these trips are always a challenge, and I have come to embrace the underpacking spirit. I have discovered that there is absolutely no shame in wearing the same thing several times. Just style differently, and wow your crowd with your spectacular accessorizing skills 😀 Totally doable, if one just plans ahead.

  • Unknown

    June 23, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    After some raves about this gorgeous bonnet (hat) I decided that I need one for my next trip at beginning of July! All necessary goods are ordered but our mail is striking 🙁
    Perhaps the next "over-night"-project…
    I´m so excided if it is looking good on my hat….

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