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The giant bonnets of Normandy – mid week historic photo post!

Interior of a Manor in the Cotentin and costumes of the rural bourgeoisie from around 1840

There are very old postcards we have seen of serious faced ladies posing stiffly in their Sunday finery, lace bonnets defying gravity and all sense. These are authentic photos of country folk from the early years of the 20th century. The are quite rare and we had only two.

So we were very pleased to come across a bundle of cards, in a brocante near Ducey, from the 1950’s or 60’s celebrating Normandy folk costume.  Voluminous bonnets were popular here in the 18th and 19th centuries for high days and holidays.  They proclaimed the wearers’ wealthy and their place in a community.  Remarkably, designs were different in every Normandy town, sometimes between villages.

The bonnets are made around a simple form of card and wire, secured under the chin with ribbons. Some are worked around a cone shape, others have a huge crown and many have wings like a butterfly.  They are all covered with Normandy lace and would be handed down, mother to daughter.

You can see Normandy bonnets today in many museums around the region, remnants of a proud, distant time. If you know more about them, do get in touch, we would be interested to find out more.

The bonnets of Bô near Pont d’Ouilly in Calvados

Under each postcard we have added a translation of the original postcard text.

Costumes of the bourgeoisie of the Pays d’Auge


“Volante de Coutances”


Young people from Bayeux, Calvados


Young people of Norrey-en-Bessin Calvados


Costume of the Pays-de-Caux bourgeoisie from Bolbec near Le Havre

Our final postcard is a bit of a favourite.  This lady has it all and she knows it; a fine lace bonnet, glorious paisley shawl, a dresser full of fine china and shining brass.  Behind her stands a nicely carved armoire and by her side a fine son, with cheeks as rosy as the apple he is about to devour.

Our model is living her Normandy dream and we wish her well. She probably deserves it all.

‘Close to the dresser’.  We think the bonnet is from the Pays d’Auge

Admire the huge range of styles of bonnet from the different regions of Normandy here.




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