Willian was the fashionable milliner on Pennsylvania Avenue, the place where everybody who was anybody went for bonnets and dresses in the early war years.

Julia Taft, who was a teenager when the Lincolns were in the White House, remembered her mother wearing a particularly delicate straw bonnet lavishly trimmed with purple ribbon embroidered with small black figures. It had long strings which tied with a bow under the chin.

When her mother wore it to a promenade concert on the Executive Mansion grounds, Mrs. Lincoln, whose favorite color was purple, stared intently at the bonnet. The First Lady then greeted Taft’s mother and pulled her aside.

Taft couldn’t hear what the women were saying, but she noticed a look of amazement on her mother’s face.

It turned out that Mary Lincoln had a bonnet trimmed with the same distinctive ribbon but she could not get enough for strings.

Mrs. Taft dutifully brought her bonnet back to Willian’s, where the ribbon was removed and applied to the First Lady’s hat.

Mrs. Taft’s hat was delivered a few days later, looking even more beautiful trimmed in a lavender ribbon embroidered in white.

 Source: The Lincoln Reader, edited by Paul M. Angle