Pervasive and fashionable throughout westward expansion in the United States, the sunbonnet endures as work dress in some regions and as icon just about everywhereùon quilts, dolls, and childrenÆs clothing. In 2003, Rebecca Matheson began to ask why.
Unlike the scant previously published work, this first book-length study focuses on the twentieth century and why this particular working-dress accessory persisted long after it passed out of nineteenth-century fashion. Surveying its previous history, Matheson pursues what the sunbonnet reveals about twentieth-century American fashion, culture, and ideals, as well as class- and race-related issues. Detailing materials and methods of sunbonnet construction and care, she also addresses differences in sunbonnet design.
Enlivening the studyÆs fresh approach are oral histories and arresting primary source images, such as photographs by Dorothea Lange and sunbonnets from American collections private and public, including the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Texas Fashion Collection, and the Museum of Texas Tech University. Literary contextùfiction and nonfictionùalso enriches the text.
A resource for historians and other scholars in dress, American and womenÆs studies, and popular and material culture, The Sunbonnet should also enjoy wide appeal among collectors, reenactors, and anyone drawn to this American icon.