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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.
This is, literally, all I could think about while reading this post:
Bonnets certainly are derpy
YAAAAAAASS!!! How could I forget that one???
Even Walt Disney knew bonnets were derpy xd
I really really think that Little Dorrit should be renamed Little Derp-it.
Dickens, man, era of the derp!
Were not there bonnets, super derpy ones, in Lark Rising to Cranford?
And I seem to remember one or two in Raintree County starring the marvellous Liz?
I wonder if Meryl also had a no bonnet clause in Out of Africa? Her hats are most excellent. (Said in a Bill & Ted’s voice)
And didn’t both Elizabeth & her big sis in P&P wear one?
Yes, yes, yes to all! I have a HAAAAAUUUUGEE file of derpy bonnet photos, actually, but this post was going on & I was getting tired of looking at the damn things ;-) I’ll just have to do another bonnet-derp post next year!
I needed the snark this week with all the Patrimony happening in DC. Congrats on your participation in the walks. I’m a Democrat in a house of Republicans.
More derpy bonnets would be most appreciated.
You have my sympathies!
Unfortunate bigginsy-bonnety derpitude. Fab
More Unfortunate Biggins, please mesdames.
We’ll have to do an ‘all the unfortunate bigginses’ post one Snark Week (we do have an explanation of why they’re unfortunate on the site, but y’know, a gallery would be helpful!).
*snorts while drinking a Sprite and …* lol.I’ve read the explanation and I laughed all the way through.
Wonder what would happen if the ‘unfortunate Biggins’ and ‘derpy bonnets’ had offspring? Whatever, it’ll be a fashion disaster.
You will call it “A Series of Unfortunate Bigginses”, won’t you..? ;)
The snark just writes itself sometimes! *mwah*
ROTFLI (Rolling On The Floor Laughing Insanely)
Trystan, you slay me! Your bonnet-castrating snark brought a true smile to my face after an un-lovely day at work. Although I will confess to owning a couple of bonnets that I do really like. Guess I drank the derp-aid…
Strawberry or grape derp-aid?…?
Same here, I do have a couple I like, one in particular that I will argue to the end is as smart as a smart hat! But, lordy, yes, the Derp is strong with these and many other bonnets!
…..I like bonnets…
We still love you!
What’s worse than a derpy bonnet? A derpy bonnet with bad hair. Trebly so if it’s bad *modern* hair sticking out. GAG.
Quadruply if there are no Kirby clips/Bobby pins.
Bonnets are fine. Mob caps were invented by some asshole who hates hair.
My God, It’s True! They make even Alex Kingston (Alex Kingston!!!) look derpy! They are a scourge!!
(meanwhile, how snazzy and chic by contrast do the Main sisters look in the North and South Image?!?! Terri Garber’s Ashton is sorta my secret hero, even though she is a terrible floozy and sleeps with Col Bent and everyone else, but my oy my, was she entertaining! – have the Frock Gals done a North and South write-up? I still thrill to the recollection of Kirtstie Alley’s emerald silk gown).
I will take even the derpiest bonnet over a woman with no headgear running around outside. Every time I see it, I want to scream “whooooooooooore!” at the TV.
Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh in P&P&Z didn’t wear an unfortunate biggins, a derpy bonnet but wore up hair up and with plenty of Bobby pins/Kirby clips and kicked butt. Very badass.
What is your opinion on cloches?
Cloches, but no cigares?
Trollop is what I call them.
Or, on a bad day, strumpets.
I adore bonnets. They are gorgeous!
Love this post x1000. Also, does it not look like Nastassia Kinski’s Tess just took a child-sized bonnet and turned it the wrong way up to make that adorable hat?
You know, I read through much of the post thinking you were being really unfair to bonnets. But then I thought about it a bit and, OMG, you’re totally right! Smart historical hats are FAB, but (most) bonnets are just Derp-personified. I do still think there are some good ones out there and maintain that one of them is one that I made that I think is smart as all get-out. But, yeah, they’re heyday was really the 1840s-1860s, which, as you say, was the death of fashion.
Now I’m just going to have to try not to get over-snarky when I talk about them in this term’s fashion history class.
I like bonnets too – but I’m one of the derpiest people that I know, so I guess it just fits.
(Seriously, though, a lot of bonnets in costume dramas are done so badly as to look fugly, it’s no surprise they take on a derpitude.)
Agree completely and: all the points for Malcolm Reynolds’ bonnet. No bonnet list would be complete without.
Yes!!!! Captain Mal OWNS the bonnet, like only he can do!
My favorite bonnet derp is the very deliberate bonnet derp in this scene from Albert Nobbs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI5u7jAxIjo
I think the bonnet tess is wearing is a particular English country style called an ugli (my mum would know better, she studies English peasant dress)
An ugly is sort of like a hooped mini-calash that you added to the end of your bonnet for extra coverage/shade…. Tess is wearing a sunbonnet. It doesn’t look like a slat bonnet (which would have wood slats inset into the brim)
I kinda like some bonnets – and (sorry!) technically, some of these “chic hats” would be considered bonnets on a technicality (such as Tess’s “chic little hat” – that is actually a bonnet!) because they tie under the chin and sit on the back of the head.
No mention of Scarlett’s green bonnet that Rhett brings her back from Atlanta, and that she actually puts on the wrong way round at first??
(I literally suppressed a shriek of laughter when this was the first image I saw of it worn the right way round!! Her FACE!! https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c8/e5/27/c8e527f9611a6b5043ac93c1aa6de57a.jpg )
CAPTAIN MAL!!!! *bows down* Excellent addition, and the exception who proves the rule. Pardon me while i wipe off the drool…
Yes, the bonnets are not cool, but neither is using an abelist term like “derpy” to describe them, especially when you use it over and over and over again and in the title. I love your site but please, using a term that describes the mentally less fortunate isn’t nice.
According to the dictionaries I just checked, “derpy” means “foolish or stupid”: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/derpy
Some of the women characters also wore bonnets.
I actually love how I look in bonnets. I have no idea what that says about me.