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It is a truth universally unacknowledged that bonnets are the item of headgear that will make even the most elegant, refined woman look derpy. No-one wants to admit this, but the bonnet was actually invented in the 19th century as a birth control device. Queen Victoria was worried about over-crowding in England — and let’s face it, she was a total prude herself — so she mandated that women wore giant fugly bonnets that made them look infantile, ridiculous, and totally unsexy. Of course, she and Albert were bangin’ like cray-cray behind closed royal doors, so she was a complete hypocrite, but this wasn’t the first or hardly the last government to be founded on a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.
Historical costume movies and TV series clearly have picked up on this fact. If they want to make sure a Victorian female character looks hot to trot, ditch the bonnets. Likewise, an actress with enough clout can require that she wear only wide, face-framing portrait hats or perky little toques so she doesn’t look derpy on screen in period costume. The original example is Gone With the Wind (1939) — Vivien Leigh plays headstrong and bonnet-free Scarlet O’Hara, while Olivia de Havilland portrays sweet as pie Melanie Hamilton in her childishly dorky bonnets. It’s all downhill from there.
Yes, bonnets are historically accurate headgear for women to wear outdoors in the 19th century, but dayum, they look dumb. Bonnets make adult women look like babies or little old biddies, plus they obstruct the face and leave little room for interesting hairstyles. Accessories like caps, frills, flowers, and bows layer on the dorkitude level of bonnets.
Perhaps no historical costume genre is more more rife with awful bonnets than Charles Dickens adaptions. Because, as we know, the 1840s to the 1850s is the death of fashion. On screen, these ladies look fugly and derpy combined — so, uh, ferpy? Dugly? It’s just bad.
In the American Civil War, North fought South, brother fought brother, and women fought women over not having to wear goddamned bonnets. That’s really what Scarlet shook her fist in the sky about. (And it should be noted that there were other outdoor hat styles available to women in the middle of the 19th century — like the Eugénie hat! — and none were as butt-ugly as a bonnet.)
And really, if that’s not enough … derpy bonnets can lead to violence.