Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1620-1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    embroidered linen

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This coif is embroidered in a style known as whitework, using white embroidery threads on white linen. It also incorporates an embroidery style known as cutwork, where threads of the woven linen are cut and removed, and the remaining threads embroidered over to create open, lace-like patterns. This is an unusual example where the whitework has been embellished with silver-gilt thread.

Until the end of the 17th century the coif was informal headwear for women. Plain linen versions were worn by the working-class. Middle-class and aristocratic women wore elaborately decorated coifs. It would have been worn by itself indoors, or with a hat on top in public. In Western Europe it was customary for both men and women to cover their heads in public up until the 1960s. A hat was an essential part of respectable dress and, from a health perspective, head coverings were considered necessary to protect against chills and disease.

Physical description

A linen coif embroidered with white linen thread with chain stitch, buttonhole and running stitch in a pattern of lozenges filled with pomegranates, pansies, gillyflowers, strawberries, honeysuckle and other flowers. The pattern is embellished with cutwork and embroidery in silver-gilt thread. Linen bobbin lace borders the cheek pieces, but not the widow's peak. The top seam and gathering at the crown have been unpicked for flat display. The coif is unlined and has a casing at the bottom with narrow linen string. The coif was originally unlined but has been patched and partially lined at the back.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1620-1640 (made)



Materials and Techniques

embroidered linen


Length: 22.5 cm approx, Width: 42.5 cm approx

Descriptive line

A woman's coif of linen, 1620-40, English; whitework & cutwork, bobbin lace edging

Labels and date

Woman's coif. English; first quarter 17th century. Linen embroidered with silk and linen in heavy chain and darning stitches with cutwork and needlelace fillings. Trimmed with bobbin lace. []

Subjects depicted

Carnation; Honeysuckle; Strawberry; Pomegranate; Pansy


Clothing; Fashion; Hats & headwear; Embroidery; Lace; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.