Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: From Field to Fashion

Cover of "From Field to Fashion: The Straw Bonnet" by Anna Worden Bauersmith

(This review is of the 2015 electronic version of the book; it was originally published in 2006)

From Field to Fashion is a resource about straw bonnets, not a guide to making them. Half of the 50-page booklet discusses the whole industry of straw bonnet production: from growing the crop to trimming the finished bonnet.  There's information about how the work was done, by whom, and for what wages; which types of straw were used; how the bonnets were styled; and who wore the finished bonnets. This overview makes extensive use of quotations from period sources, all cited in footnotes. Additionally, there are four pages of bibliography and a fifteen page appendix with recommendations of where to view original bonnets online, charts of the economic statistics of bonnet-manufacture, examples of plaited straw, and descriptions of straw bonnets in fiction and fashion literature.

I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about straw bonnets and how they were made and used in the 1850s and 60s. In particular, it will invaluable to those portraying milliners, informed ladies of fashion, or workers employed in the straw plait industry.  If you're looking for instructions for making a bonnet, this isn't the right book, but if you want to better understand them in context or need ideas for trimming one, this is precisely the book you want.

Score: 4.5 Stars.

Accuracy: High.  Extensive use of primary sources, with quotes, footnotes, and citations.

Strongest Impression: Very good reference material for straw bonnet manufacture and wear, which would be useful background information for certain mid-century impressions.

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