I have fond memories of tea parties with my sister and our Holly Hobbie tea set. I imagine that my memory is shared by many other girls of my generation. We set up our tea set on a tree stump in our backyard and circled it with our dolls. All we needed to fill the empty dishes was our imagination.
Holly Hobbie was created in the late 1960’s and beloved by girls of my generation. In her hay day, her image was on everything from lunch boxes to paper dolls. Laura Ingalls (another bonnet wearing icon) was also popular around the same time. I remember scheduled dates with my grandma to watch “Little House.” It was our favorite show. Oh, how I loved those times with her. I even played dress up with her jewelry and accessories, wishing that she had a bonnet just like Laura.
Bonnets have been a symbol of a simple country life for generations. They are still celebrated in the famous “Sunbonnet Sue” quilting pattern. It has many different variations, but the one constant is always the sunbonnet. The design was adopted to use in quilts from illustrations called “Sunbonnet Babies” drawn for children’s reading primers published in the early 1900’s. I have its counterpart “Fisherman Fred” on a quilt made by a friend of mine for my little boy. It’s a simple pattern, but has so much warmth and personality.
In the most recent decades, bonnets have only been deemed appropriate attire for little girls and babies. But it was not always that way. The simple bonnet as we know it today evolved through many stages back as far as the 17th century. It took on various forms over the years, both simple and very elaborate. I often think of Scarlett O’Hara’s extravagant wardrobe in “Gone with the Wind”. Today, the bonnet is most thought of as sun protection in the style worn by pioneer women throughout the 19th century.
Although the bonnet is essentially just a hat, to me it symbolizes so much more. It hearkens us back to a simpler time. Dare I say, a time when girls were girls and boys were boys and there was no confusing them. Bonnets were both feminine and practical at the same time. They were charmingly simple, just like the women who wore them. These women were our homestead predecessors. They were beautiful, strong, and courageous. They often just had two bonnets, a woolen one for cold weather and one made of cotton for warm weather. Instead of merely fashion accessories, they were practical tools for keeping the hot sun off their faces and their hair in place. Their bonnets saw a lot of hard work.
I think it’s time to bring back the sunbonnet. Maybe even now more than ever, since life has become increasingly more complicated in our day. Holly Hobbie gave girls an image of simple femininity that is so lacking in girls’ toys of today. Oh how it would do my heart good to know that little girls still have tea parties! I sincerely hope that somewhere out there girls are still propping up their dolls and pretending to feed them tea and sandwiches, enjoying the simple pleasures of girlhood.
As for me, I’ve been wearing my sunbonnet proudly this summer! As a practical tool and heart-warming image of beautiful homestead women that came before me. It puts a smile on my face to remember my own girlhood and pretend to be Laura Ingalls for just a little while.
Benefits of a Sunbonnet
Every summer of my homestead life, I’ve been frustrated with sun hats. They just don’t stay on my head. And I hate the chemical sunscreens, as well as the time they take to apply. My new sunbonnet is the answer I’ve been looking for. Here’s why:
- The wide brim provides shade for my entire face, as well as ears.
- It won’t fall off when I lean over.
- It is made from light breathable cotton. I can even get it wet to keep my head cooler.
- The back is really roomy so it fits all my hair when I put it up, even in a big claw clip or messy bun.