The Victorian period began in 1837 when Victoria became Queen of England. She ruled until she died in 1901. Hers was the longest reign in United Kingdom’s history.
The Victorian Era (1837-1901) began when Queen Victoria took the throne in England. It was a time of great change and invention. The wealthy lived extravagantly and wastefully, the poor had a life of grinding hard work and near-poverty. Lavishly trimmed bonnets stayed in fashion for half a century but were not worn much after 1890.
Ladies’ hats were a part of life in the Victorian era, and no self-respecting lady or even servant for that matter would leave the house bare-headed. Women who gardened or lived in the countryside wore the a wider brimmed hat outdoors to protect themselves against the elements. Protection from the sun was paramount because ladies prized a white, soft complexion.
Bonnets and hats were lavishly trimmed with lace, ribbons, artificial fruit, feathers and bows as well as birds, beetles and more. Bonnet ribbons were wide and were sometimes not tied but held in place with a brooch or pin under the chin, sometimes with a tiny bunch of flowers as an additional adornment. Hats were considered an essential part of outdoor life, and so milliners (hat-makers) were found everywhere and catered to men and women.
The 1850 onward saw the bonnet grow smaller in the making, allowing the face and the hair to show. Later on the riding hat came into fashion and it was decorated with elaborate plumes and ribbons.
Elaborate hair-dos were the mode around 1860 to 1870, and this meant that bonnets had to be worn forward on the head, perched as it were, on the forehead, to allow for the hair to be seen at the back. Indoor caps and hats were eventually less used by the 1870s, except for servants and the elderly. Night caps were practical, and seen as essential, as were the nightgown and night-jacket. Night caps were worn by both men and women.