Coif thumbnail 1
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Coif

1575-1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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, but also blue, green or red, on linen. Like many examples of blackwork, this coif is embellished with silver-gilt thread. The motifs are filled with counted-thread stitches arranged to create repeating geometric designs. This style of blackwork is characteristic of the 16th century. Unlike many coifs in the V&A’s collections, this example retains its original stitching at the top.

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Linen, black silk thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered
Brief Description
A woman's coif of linen, 1575-1600, English; Blackwork with silver gilt thread
Physical Description
A linen coif embroidered with black silk in stem and back stitch, and silver-gilt thread in plaited braid stitch. The pattern consists of silver-gilt scrolling stems bearing leaves and flowers with geometrical, counted thread infills in black silk. There is a casing at the lower edge. The tight circle of gathers at the crown, embroidered over, is original. A modern cotton lining has been added later.
Dimensions
  • Approx. length: 22.7cm
  • Approx. width: 19.5cm
Style
Object history
Purchased. Registered File number 23053/1902 and 89728/1902.
Subject depicted
Summary
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, but also blue, green or red, on linen. Like many examples of blackwork, this coif is embellished with silver-gilt thread. The motifs are filled with counted-thread stitches arranged to create repeating geometric designs. This style of blackwork is characteristic of the 16th century. Unlike many coifs in the V&A’s collections, this example retains its original stitching at the top.



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.
Collection
Accession Number
756-1902

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record createdJune 23, 2009
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