December 8th, 2012
In celebration of a recent natal anniversary, my affectionate mother sent a package of goodies across the country. The contents proved how well she (and my father, who enclosed a beautiful William Morris-themed notebook) knows me. To witness, this pair of sunbonnets:
I guess she was tired of hearing me worry about ruining my porcelain complexion in the California sun. Alas, it’s probably too late. Since moving here nearly a year ago, my face and arms have taken on a decidedly berry-like glow. And my hair has changed from mousy brown to some weird mix of gold, brown, and red, with a few pale blond streaks on top.
Not many people wear sunbonnets these days. I only knew of one person in NYC who indulged (needless to say, she is a close friend). Alas, I can’t seem to find the post featuring her amazing bonnet — it was black and white striped silk with slats a mile long. Swoon. But I haven’t seen a single soul wearing a sunbonnet out here on the central coast of California. Yet.
My mother tells me she bought my bonnets at a store in south eastern Pennsylvania that caters to Amish and Mennonite communities. Groups that subscribe to traditional or modest dress for religious or social reasons, along with historical reenactors, seem to be the last major proponents of the sunbonnet. A mere century ago, this was definitely not the case. Sunbonnets were necessary work clothing for many American women. Lest I overstep my rather limited knowledge in this area, let me instead recommend The Sunbonnet: An American Icon in Texas, by Rebecca Jumper Matheson. Small world — I had the honor to help organize a book launch party for this title when I worked at an historic house in New York City.
And last but not least, a picture of my new sunbonnet doing what sunbonnets do best: covering my face!