A lady in the 1860s usually had her head covered when she went out of the house. Even in her own yard, if the sun was hot she would wear a slat or corded bonnet. Though ladies might have bare heads indoors or for informal occasions, a proper lady wore a covering while out of her home.

An important note: A lady always dressed her hair, regardless of what covering she put on it. A lady's hair was parted in the middle and put up into a low bun before she put on bonnet, hat, net, cap or evening headdress.

Ladies' headwear came in a large variety of styles depending on the lady's outfit, age and time of day.

Bonnets: Every lady, young or old, owned at least one bonnet. Bonnets were the staple of ladies' headwear. For formal occasions such as church, funerals, weddings, or formal calls upon friends, a bonnet was nearly universally worn.

Hats: Hats were used for certain occasions and certain types of dress. Hats were considered more sporty, fashion-forward and casual. They could be worn at the seaside, while riding horses, at outdoor parties, and so on. Hats were typically worn by younger ladies, though very fashion-forward older ladies could wear them in these more casual situations.

Nets: Hairnets were worn by both young and old, indoors or out. A lady might simply wear the net by itself, or she might have ribbons, tassels, and beading on the net. A note for the reenactress: The modern "snood" seen at so many reenactments was not invented until the 1940s and is completely inaccurate. Nets of the 1860s were of very fine silk, silk velvet or silk chenille - not the bulky  polyester weave and neon colors we see in modern snoods.

Caps: Caps were still a popular item for ladies. Though worn mainly by middle aged and older ladies, some younger ladies wore them as well. They were primarily for indoors, though some paintings and photos indicate they would be worn outdoors in some situations. Cap designs were endless and ranged from very plain fine muslin for working around the house, to elaborate lace, ribbons, flowers and frills for evening wear.

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