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Cap (headgear)

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black silk and metal thread embroidery on linen

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This nightcap is a typical example of informal headwear for a wealthy man. Although only worn in the privacy of home, it is a luxurious garment.

Ownership & Use
Covering the head for both men and women was an important sartorial custom in Western Europe up until 1960s. From a health perspective, head coverings were considered necessary to protect against chills and disease. In literature and paintings, to be bareheaded often signified emotional distress or even insanity.

The use of the adjective 'night' in describing various types of informal garments, as in nightcap or nightgown, is sometimes confusing. It refers to 'night clothes', that is, informal clothing worn in the evening, after the formal public attire of the day, rather than to garments that were actually worn in bed.

Designs & Designing
The nightcap's pattern characterises embroidery of the early 17th century. Most needlework designs of the period were naturalistic interpretations of flowers, birds and insects, often copied from herbals and emblem books. By the 1620s several books had been published specifically for embroidery, often with patterns specially adapted for the shape of the nightcap.

Physical description

Silk and gilt thread embroidery on linen, using stem and darning stitches in black silk, chain and plait stitches for the gilt & silver. The cap is divided into four quarters and decorated with floral sprays in black and silver thread, the stems being worked in gold. The up-turned brim has a similar pattern.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1580-1620 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Black silk and metal thread embroidery on linen


Height: 6.5 in

Object history note

Registered File number 1929/8990.

Descriptive line

Black silk and gold and silver thread embroidery on linen; England; 1580-1600

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.86, plate LXIV b 2


Linen; Silk thread; Metal thread



Subjects depicted

Stems; Flowers


Men's clothes; Hats & headwear; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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