- Place of origin:
Great Britain (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
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.
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)
Materials and Techniques
Length: 22.5 cm approx, Width: 42.5 cm approx
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. 
Honeysuckle; Strawberry; Pansy; Pomegranate; Carnation
Clothing; Fashion; Hats & headwear; Embroidery; Lace; Europeana Fashion Project
Textiles and Fashion Collection