The History of Baby Bonnet: From Necessity to Fashion Statement

by Mark Jacobovits
The History of Baby Bonnet: From Necessity to Fashion Statement

Bonnets are a type of headgear that has been worn by both men and women throughout history, but they are most commonly associated with babies and young children. Bonnets are usually made of soft fabric and have no brim or a very small one.

They are often tied under the chin with ribbons or strings. Bonnets can serve various purposes, such as keeping the head warm, protecting the hair, or expressing one's identity or status.

In this blog post, we will explore the history of baby bonnet, from its origins in the Middle Ages to their evolution into a fashion statement in modern times.

The Origins of Baby Bonnet

The word “bonnet” comes from the French word bonnet, which originally meant a kind of cloth or material. The earliest bonnets were worn by women and children in the Middle Ages, and they were called coifs. Coifs were simple caps made of lightweight fabric that covered the hair and ears.

They were secured by tying two strings under the chin. Coifs were worn by both rich and poor women, as well as by nuns and peasants. Coifs were also worn by men, especially by soldiers and knights, under their helmets or chain mail.

Coifs were not only practical, but also symbolic. They indicated one's social status, marital status, religious affiliation, or moral character. For example, married women wore coifs to show their modesty and fidelity, while unmarried women wore their hair loose or braided. Nuns wore coifs to show their devotion and humility, while prostitutes wore coifs to show their shame and repentance.

Coifs were also used to protect the wearer from evil spirits or diseases. According to folklore, if evil forces encountered a child wearing a coif, they would pass by, thinking it was an animal or of no value. Coifs were also believed to prevent head lice, scabies, or other infections.

The Evolution of Baby Bonnets

In the 16th and 17th centuries, coifs became more elaborate and decorative. They were often embroidered, lace-trimmed, or adorned with ribbons, pearls, or jewels. They were also shaped differently, depending on the fashion trends and preferences of the time.

Some coifs were round, some were pointed, some were flat, and some were curved. Coifs were also worn with other headpieces, such as veils, hats, or hoods.

Coifs were still worn by babies and children, but they were also called bonnets. Bonnets were more varied and colorful than coifs, and they often had a small brim or peak at the front. Bonnets were also worn by both boys and girls, until the age of five or six, when they switched to hats or caps.

Bonnets were also used to indicate the gender of the child, by using different colors, patterns, or decorations. For example, blue bonnets were for boys, while pink bonnets were for girls.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, bonnets became more fashionable and feminine. They were often made of silk, satin, velvet, or muslin, and they had larger brims or peaks that framed the face.

They were also decorated with flowers, feathers, ribbons, or bows. Bonnets were worn by women of all ages and classes, especially for outdoor activities or informal occasions.

Bonnets were also worn by babies and children, but they were more delicate and dainty than before. Bonnets were also used to express one's personality, mood, or taste.

For example, some bonnets were simple and plain, while others were fancy and extravagant. Some bonnets were cheerful and bright, while others were somber and dark.

Some styles of bonnets were also unique or distinctive, such as the poke bonnet, the calash bonnet, or the sunbonnet. The poke bonnet was a bonnet with a large peak that prevented the wearer from looking right or left without turning their head.

The calash bonnet was a bonnet with a collapsible frame that could be folded like a fan. The sunbonnet was a bonnet with a wide brim that covered the face and neck from the sun.

The Decline and Revival of Bonnets

In the 20th century, bonnets became less popular and more obsolete. They were replaced by hats, caps, or berets, which were more modern and convenient. Bonnets were also associated with servitude, homeliness, or old-fashionedness, due to the stereotypes of characters such as Aunt Jemima or Little Bo Peep.

Bonnets were also seen as impractical, uncomfortable, or restrictive, especially for active or adventurous children. Bonnets were only worn by babies or toddlers, and only for special occasions or ceremonies, such as christenings, weddings, or birthdays.

However, in the 21st century, bonnets have made a comeback and a statement. They have been revived by designers, celebrities, and influencers, who have reinvented them with new materials, shapes, and styles.

They have also been embraced by various cultures, communities, and movements, who have reclaimed them as a symbol of heritage, identity, or resistance.

For example, bonnets have been worn by African Americans, who have celebrated their history and diversity with headwraps, turbans, or scarves. Bonnets have also been worn by religious groups, such as the Amish, Mennonite, or Quaker, who have followed their traditions and beliefs with plain or modest bonnets.

Bonnets have also been worn by activists, such as the Women's March, who have protested and advocated with pink or purple bonnets.

Also, it has been worn by babies and children, who have enjoyed their cuteness and coziness. Bonnets have also been used to protect the hair, skin, or ears of the child, especially from the cold, wind, or sun.

Bonnets have also been used to express the individuality, creativity, or mood of the child, by using different colors, patterns, or themes. For example, some bonnets are animal-shaped, some are floral-printed, some are striped or polka-dotted.

The Future of Baby Bonnets

Bonnets are a type of headgear that have a long and rich history, from necessity to fashion statement. They have been worn by both men and women, but they are most commonly associated with babies and children. They have served various purposes, such as keeping the head warm, protecting the hair, or expressing one's identity or status.

They have also evolved and changed, depending on the fashion trends and preferences of the time. They have also been influenced and inspired by different cultures, communities, and movements.

Bonnets are not only practical and symbolic, but also cute and fun. Bonnets are not only a part of the past, but also a part of the present and the future. Bonnets are not only a type of headgear, but also a type of art.

Popular Baby Bonnet Styles

In the previous section, we have learned about the history of baby bonnets, from their origins in the Middle Ages to their evolution into a fashion statement in modern times. In this section, we will explore some of the popular baby bonnet styles that are available today.

Whether you are looking for a bonnet that is organic, cozy, silky, or brimmed, you will find a variety of options that will suit your preferences and needs. Here are some of the popular baby bonnet styles that you can choose from:

  • Organic Baby Bonnet: This is a bonnet made from 100% organic cotton that is soft and breathable. It usually has a simple design and ties under the chin. It can come in different colors and patterns, such as a cute horse print.
  • Baby Bear Bonnet: This is a bonnet that has tiny bear ears on top and an adjustable chin strap. It is made from a soft ribbed fabric that is cozy and warm. It can come in different colors, such as blue, pink, or gray.
  • Ultra-soft Infant Bonnet: This is a bonnet that is made from ultra-soft fabric that is smooth and comfortable. It can come in different colors and patterns, such as solid, striped, or floral. It can also match with other baby accessories, such as sleep bags or blankets.
  • Silky Bamboo Bonnet: This is a bonnet that is made from bamboo rayon that is silky and breathable. It has a natural and earthy look and feel. It can come in different colors, such as green, brown, or beige. It also has chin ties that can be adjusted for a better fit.
  • Brimmed Bonnet: This is a bonnet that has a small brim or peak at the front that can provide some shade from the sun. It can be made from different fabrics, such as linen, cotton, or velvet. It can also have different decorations, such as flowers, feathers, or bows.

Carriage Boutique Baby Bonnets are adorable and elegant accessories for your little ones. They are made of high-quality fabrics and materials, such as cotton, lace, and satin. They come in various colors, styles, and sizes, suitable for different occasions and seasons. Whether you want a classic white bonnet, a floral print bonnet, or a festive red bonnet, you will find it at Carriage Boutique. 

Read our blog about Choosing the Right Coming Home Outfit for Your Baby.

How to Make a Baby Bonnet

Making a baby bonnet can be a delightful and rewarding DIY project. Here's a simple guide to creating a basic baby bonnet:

Materials Needed:

  • Soft fabric (cotton, linen, or muslin works well)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Ribbon or lace for embellishment
  • Elastic cord
  • Bonnet pattern (you can find free patterns online or create your own)

10 Steps in Making a Bonnet for Your Little One:

  1. Choose Your Fabric: Select a soft and breathable fabric suitable for your baby's comfort. Cotton is a popular choice for baby clothing.
  2. Create or Choose a Pattern: You can find free baby bonnet patterns online, or you can create your own by adapting a simple baby hat pattern. Ensure the pattern includes pieces for the bonnet crown, brim, and ties.
  3. Cut Fabric Pieces: Using the pattern, cut out the fabric pieces. You'll typically have a crown, brim, and ties. Be sure to cut mirrored pieces for the ties.
  4. Sew the Crown: Place the crown pieces right sides together and sew along the curved edge, leaving the bottom open. Trim excess fabric and turn it right side out.
  5. Sew the Brim: If your bonnet has a brim, sew it onto the crown. Place the brim on the right side of the crown, matching the edges, and sew along the curved line.
  6. Attach the Ties: Sew the ties to the bonnet at the designated points on each side. These will be used to secure the bonnet under the baby's chin.
  7. Embellish (Optional): Add decorative elements like ribbon, lace, or embroidery for a personalized touch. Ensure any embellishments are securely attached, considering the baby's safety.
  8. Add Elastic Cord (Optional): To help the bonnet stay in place, you can insert a thin elastic cord along the bottom edge. Sew the elastic into a loop, stretch it slightly, and sew it securely inside the fabric casing.
  9. Finishing Touches: Trim any loose threads and give the bonnet a final press to ensure a neat finish.
  10. Try It On: Gently try the bonnet on your baby to ensure a proper fit. Adjust the ties and make any necessary modifications.

Remember to prioritize safety when making a baby bonnet. Avoid using small embellishments that could pose a choking hazard, and ensure that all stitching is secure. Enjoy the creative process, and you'll have a handmade keepsake for your little one to cherish.

Frequently Asked Questions about Baby Bonnet (FAQs)

Are Bonnets Safe for Newborns?

Yes, bonnets can be safe for newborns when used appropriately. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind to ensure the safety and well-being of the baby:

  • Loose Parts and Choking Hazards: Avoid attaching small embellishments, buttons, or other decorative elements that could pose a choking hazard. Newborns may explore items with their mouths, and small parts can be a risk.
  • Breathability: Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton or muslin to ensure proper ventilation. This is especially important when the baby is sleeping or in warmer weather to prevent overheating.
  • Secure Ties: Ensure that any ties or fastenings are securely attached. Ties should be short enough to prevent strangulation, and their placement should not impede the baby's breathing.
  • Supervision: Always supervise your newborn when they are wearing a bonnet. Remove the bonnet if you're leaving the baby unattended, especially during sleep.
  • Proper Fit: Make sure the bonnet fits snugly but not too tight. Avoid bonnets that may slip down over the baby's face, potentially covering their nose or mouth.
  • Comfort and Mobility: Choose a bonnet that allows for the baby's comfort and mobility. Ensure that the bonnet does not obstruct the baby's vision or movement.
  • Consideration for Sleep: While bonnets are generally safe for daytime use, it's advisable not to use them during sleep. Follow safe sleep guidelines by placing the baby on their back on a firm mattress with no loose bedding, including bonnets.

Always use common sense and follow safety guidelines when dressing your newborn. If you have concerns or questions about the safety of a specific bonnet or any baby accessory, consult with your pediatrician. Keep in mind that every baby is unique, and what works for one may not be suitable for another.

Can Baby Sleep with Bonnet On?

No, baby should not sleep with a bonnet on. According to, a bonnet can cause overheating and suffocation, which are risk factors for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). A bonnet can also slip over the baby's face or become loose and pose a strangulation hazard.

A bonnet is not necessary for keeping the baby warm at night, as there are safer ways to do so, such as using a baby sleeping bag or swaddle bag, dressing the baby in appropriate sleepwear, and keeping the room at a suitable temperature.


The history of baby bonnets is a rich tapestry, woven with threads of necessity, social significance, and evolving aesthetics. From their humble beginnings as practical head coverings to becoming fashion statements that transcend time, baby bonnets have weathered the winds of change.

Today, as they experience a renaissance in the world of children's fashion, these tiny headpieces continue to be cherished symbols of tradition, craftsmanship, and the enduring beauty of childhood.

Whether chosen for their historical significance or embraced for their aesthetic appeal, baby bonnets stand as a testament to the timeless art of dressing our little ones with care and style.

If you are interested in buying a bonnet for your little one, you can find a variety of options on Carriage Boutique’s Elegant Baby Bonnets. Carriage Boutique offers quality bonnets for boys and girls, made from high-quality fabrics and materials.

Buy Baby Bonnets

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