18th Century Women’s Calashes

The Annals of Philadelphia suggests that what we call a “calash” may, in fact, be one of several different styles of bonnets:

“The musk melon” bonnet, used before the Revolution, had numerous whalebone stiffeners in the crown, set at an inch apart in parallel lines and presenting ridges to the eye, between the bones. The next bonnet was the “whalebone bonnet,” having only the bones in the front as stiffeners. “A calash bonnet” was always formed of green silk; it was worn abroad, covering the head, but when in rooms it could fall back in folds like the springs of a calash or gig top; to keep it up over the head it was drawn up by a cord always held in the hand of the wearer.

Other styles of bonnets are discussed on this linkspage.

  • An 18th century calash bonnet (at FIT?); found condition, post conservation treatment
  • Met C.I.45.68.44, America (?)
  • Met C.I.46.82.9
  • MFA 59.273; “Probably American, 18th Century Calash. Olive green lutestring on reed frame. Double ruffle around face. Narrow ribbon sewn across front opening. Short collar sewn along botton edge. Bow at back. Two long ribbons, lighter in tone, fall from front.”
  • MORR 4021, taffeta sewn with linen thread
  • SPNEA 1988.140, c. 1760-1800; “Tan (discolored) cotton; ruching w/ self-fabric piping and 2 cane hoops at brim; 14 cane hoops; center back panel insert; original neck ruffle has been replaced--but remains of piped edge of original are still visible; center back panel supported and stiffened by a piece of square cardboard.”
  • SPNEA 1988.141, c. 1760-1800; “Folding bonnet; replacement ribbons; lg bow in back green.”
  • Christie’s Lot 63 / Sale 4332, “A calash of black silk, interlined and lined with pink quilted silk, edged with net - circa 1770”
  • Kerry Taylor Auctions, 7/10/2007, Lot 44, “An extremely large calash bonnet, 1770s, with fan-shaped pleating to back, internal curved cane struts, lined in ivory silk, 78cm 30½in long overall”
  • SPNEA 1985.682, c. 1770-1785; “Pale blue silk lined with sheer coarse woven cotton; gathered on whalebone(?) hoops; long braid at center, top for pulling calash over head; trimmed with cream lace.”
  • Snowshill Wade Costume Collection National Trust 1349830, c. 1770-1790; “Made from green-brown glazed cotton with 6 split cane hoops. There is a self fabric bow centre back with scalloped and pinked edges. it fastens with fawn silk ribbon draw ties joined in small bow at the centre back. There are self fabric ties at the front and a fawn silk ribbon loop from centre front edge for holding calash extended in use.”
  • Snowshill Wade Costume Collection National Trust 1349831, c. 1770-1790; “Made from dark brown glazed cotton and lined with pink glazed cotton. There are 6 cane hoops pleated into the centre back and gathered at the lower edge. There is a short unlined curtain. It is trimmed with black ribbed silk ribbon bow at centre back of crown. It fastens with black silk ribbon drawstring at the neck and there is a black ribbon loop joined to each side of the front edge for holding the calash extended.”
  • 1770-80s bottle green calash
  • Allison-Antrim Museum, c. 1770-1800
  • Dudmaston National Trust 814603, c. 1770-1839
  • Met C.I.38.100.19, c. 1775-1785
  • MFA 99.664.77, America, last quarter of the 18th century; “Green silk calash or bonnet with cane ribs, horseshoe-shaped caul, double flounce with corded edges around face, bavolet or neck curtain with corded edges, bow at back, green ribbon ties at chin”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1960-723, green silk calash, England, c. 1780
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1960-722, black silk calash, England, c. 1780
  • Met 1975.128.4, c. 1780
  • Marzili Vintage F-509, c. 1780 green silk calash bonnet
  • eBay 121163165044, c. 1780 olive green calash bonnet
  • Manchester 1955.271, c. 1780-1800; “Green silk lined with cream glazed cotton. Gathered at front edge with drawstring tying at top, closely gathered at centre back and seamed below. Lower edge with frill below, and tying with ribbon strings under chin. Gathered to 3 whalebone hoops.”
  • Lady's folding silk calash bonnet c. 1790
  • Met 2009.300.2889, America, c. 1790
  • Met 2009.300.4486, America, c. 1790
  • Newport Historical Society D239, a green silk calash, c. 1790
  • Newport Historical Society D241, a green silk calash bonnet with the remains of white china silk lining, c. 1790
  • Newport Historical Society FIC.2014.139, c. 1790-1800; “Green silk calash similar to D241 with bow appliqued to the back. A ruffle of the same green silk fabric is sewn to the front opening of the calash. The interior lining is reinforced with crinoline fabric between the rib divided sections. The rib divided sections closest to the wearers face feature an olive colored damask fabric as opposed to crinoline.”
  • Newport Historical Society FIC.2014.140, c. 1790-1800; “Green silk calash with bow applied to the back and ruffle attached to the front. Interior lining is made of crinoline. An ruffle has also been attached where the bottom of the hat would meet the wearer's neck.”
  • Monmouth County Historical Association, c. 1790
  • AntiqueDress #4272, “late 1700's Century Green Silk Calash Bonnet”
  • Maria Niforos EI-16, late 18th century
  • Late 18th/early 19th century calash bonnet

Depictions of calashes