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In preparation for the June 1 opening of Head to Toe, Historic New England’s team spent a whole day unfolding and propping up this calash, or large bonnet, at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts. Calashes like this one made of green silk and baleen were made to protect the towering powdered wigs popular in the late eighteenth century. The collapsible design mimicked a carriage hood that could be raised or lowered as desired, giving the distinctive headgear its name. This calash is early and largely intact; only the string pulled to raise the bonnet is a replacement. It was donated to Historic New England with the story that it was a baby carriage cover, which is not too far from its design inspiration.
This calash is on view at the Eustis Estate alongside more than forty other hats and shoes through February 24, 2019. Other exhibition highlights are boots worn during Boston’s Big Dig and pair of Julia Child‘s shoes.