In the eighteenth century, children’s clothing underwent a gradual evolution from constricting garments patterned after those worn by adults to loose fitting dresses similar to those worn by women the standard apparel for both sexes. Along with this philosophy of freedom, the practice of swaddling infants tightly became a thing of the past. While clearly a wonderful, natural way for children to grow strong and thrive, for the awkward infant and rambunctious toddler, the potential for harm to the tender head was a concern.
Enter the safety hat most commonly called the PUDDING CAP due to its shape resembling an infant’s pudding bowl. Essentially an early version of the crash helmet, a pudding cap, or bumper cap, was a thickly padded cap placed directly over the top of the head and above the ears, sometimes with a thin linen bonnet worn underneath but not always. As seen from the example above, while designs and materials varied slightly, in general a pudding cap consisted of a round band with three or four triangular flaps tied at the top of the head.
The outer material could literally be anything, although most often the material was sturdy leather, heavy quilting, velvet, and so on. The inner fabric would be softer velvet, cotton, silk, muslin, etc., and of course it was preferred to adorn the cap with embroidery and pretty ribbons. Whatever fabric choice, the inside of the band and flaps was stuffed with layers of horsehair and wadding until firm enough to prevent injury to the infant’s head if he or she fell.