Monday, May 2, 2022

The Most Fabulous, Ugliest Bonnet in the World

Hannah More, NPG, London
I was in Florence last week. Firenze ... you've changed, but you're still the same. I couldn't visit in the manor I'd truly wished, being subject to the whims and needs of a family party (we were together for the first time since the pandemic began!), but I did indulge myself by rereading A Room with a View while there and with some truly wonderful shopping. 

Florence has such amazing stores. It was by accident that I stumbled into my favorite discovery of the trip. It says something unsettling about me that I was more thrilled by finding the ugliest bonnet it has ever been my absolute pleasure to behold than by the treasures of the Uffizi, combed over the day before, but what a cappellino!

The store is called Antiquariato il Cancello and is located in the Via dei Fossi, 13/r ( It is a tiny place packed to the brim with vintage pieces and, amongst them, some truly historical finds. Something perverse in me prevented my taking pictures, but the particular bonnet in question was so tattered already that I could not bear to subject it to anything more. I suspect it ought to be in a museum collection (if any conservators are in the position to rescue it, you'll find it just inside the shop entrance on your left).

It might be later than I suspect, Italian fashion not being my specialty, but my gut tells me it is an 1820-30 creation. It is a mourning bonnet with a good amount of embellishment, all sadly decaying, and of a poke style that I particularly dislike, close fitting and seeming to reach around the wearer's face like a collar, a la Hannah More above. I have been scouring the internet trying to find an image of something that does it justice with little luck. Instead, I ask the reader to use their imagination:

Cross this bonnet,

with these,

then trim it up like this,

and now give it to a ghost to wear for a century or two.

It was dreadful. Dreadfully magnificent. I do hope someone finds it the right home.

Other treasure stumbled upon include some beautiful parasols and a few late 19th century gowns, but the bonnet brought tears to my eyes. Oh, the things it's seen! Boggles the mind and sparks the imagination.

It is so wonderful to travel again,