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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, black silk thread, silver-gilt thread and spangles; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This coif is a fine example of blackwork, a style of needlework popular in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, as in this coif, but also blue, red or green on linen. This coif is a particularly lavish example as the blackwork has been embellished with embroidery in silver-gilt thread and trimmed with silver-gilt bobbin lace.

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 black silk in speckling stitch and outline stitch, and silver-gilt thread in plaited braid and detached buttonhole stitch, with silver-gilt spangles. The pattern consists of silver-gilt scrolling stems bearing blackwork roses, foxglove, insects and birds. The coif is unlined, with a casing at the bottom. The front is edged with bobbin lace in silver-gilt thread and spangles. The seam at the top appears to have been unpicked and re-sewn at a later date.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1600-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, black silk thread, silver-gilt thread and spangles; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered


Length: 23.2 cm approx., Width: 22.0 cm approx

Descriptive line

A woman's coif of linen, 1600-1624, English; Blackwork, silver gilt thread, spangles and bobbin lace

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.84

Labels and date

Woman's coif. English; first quarter 17th century. Linen embroidered with silver-gilt thread and silk in double ladder, detached buttonhole, plaited braid, cable chain, stem, satin, running and speckling stitches with knots and spangles. Trimmed with silver-gilt bobbon lace. []


Linen; Silk; Silver



Subjects depicted

Foxglove; Rose; Butterfly; Bird


Clothing; Fashion; Embroidery; Lace; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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