Covering one’s head was an essential aspect of etiquette in the 19th century. During the 1840s, women wore caps indoors and bonnets outdoors. The bonnet has wide brim sheltering the face, reflecting the heightened sense of propriety brought in when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837.
Fashions in hats and headwear changed more quickly than other items of clothing. While a dress would be expected to last at least a decade, new styles of hats arrived annually. The latest fashion in bonnets usually featured the latest fabrics and trimmings, rather than a new shape. Most 19th-century women expected a new hat each year, even if it meant recovering an old one themselves. Personal accounts for this period show women buying new ribbons, laces, fabrics and trimmings to update their headwear.