Recently a friend posed a question about wire framed bonnets from the Civil War. She couldn't imagine wearing such a thing as she considered it uncomfortable. This question did make me ponder. Yes, indeed, women from the Victorian era did wear bonnets/hats made from a wire frame, embellished with lace, ribbon as well as a variety of other trims and materials.
The one she was questioning is from the Civil War era pictured below. The base of the bonnet is made of wire covered in netted / tulle black lace with curlicues and loops of straw applied in a decorative way.
The construction of the bonnet consisted of a wire frame about the gauge of a coat hanger. It was rigid enough to support the shape but not so thick to be cumbersome. Over this framework was stretched & stitched the desired material and embellishments.
Over the course of years I have own and sold many such bonnets from the Civil War through the early part of the 1900's. Some of the earlier wire bonnets were covered in black Chantilly lace or silk crepe suitable for mourning. Wire framed hats, of a larger brimmed variety, were fashionable from the late Victorian ~ Edwardian time period and embellished in the style of the time.