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Coif

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1575-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen with silk, silver and silver-gilt threads, spangles, hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Frank Ward

  • Museum number:

    T.240-1960

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This coif is embroidered in coloured silks, embellished with precious metal threads and spangles (sequins). The pattern of scrolling stems bearing flowers and fruits is typical of embroidery design in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

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

Woman's coif of embroidered linen with silk thread in shades of green, blue, pink, red, white and yellow in detached buttonhole stitch, silver and silver-gilt threads in plaited braid stitch and couching with silver-gilt spangles. The pattern consists of scrolling stems bearing leaves, pansy, carnation, borage, strawberry, grapes and other flowers. The forehead cloth is shaped with a widow's peak and curved cheek pieces, and the front edge is embroidered with pink silk and silver thread in buttonhole stitch. The bottom edge is turned and hemmed to form a casing. The seam at the top and gathers at the crown have been unpicked and later stitched flat. The coif is unlined. The thread count is approximately 90 x 90 threads per inch.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1575-1625 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen with silk, silver and silver-gilt threads, spangles, hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

Dimensions

Length: 24 cm overall approx., Width: 20.6 cm approx.

Descriptive line

Woman's coif of embroidered linen with silk, silver and silver-gilt threads, England, 1575-1625

Subjects depicted

Grapes; Strawberry; Pansy; Borage; Carnation

Categories

Women's clothes; Fashion; Hats & headwear; Embroidery; Textiles

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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