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Coif

1590-1610 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This coif is an 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. The abstract floral pattern and use of silver-gilt thread to fill the shapes may be a transition between the blackwork styles of the late 16th century and those of the early 17th century.

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, linen thread, silk thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered
Brief Description
Woman's coif of linen, 1590-1610, British; embroidered in blackwork with silver-gilt thread, in a pattern of leaves & flowers
Physical Description
A coif of linen embroidered with black silk in stem stitch and silver-gilt thread in chain stitch and spider knots. The pattern consists of scrolling stems of black silk bearing a stylized leaf and four-petalled flowered, outlined in black and enriched in the centre with silver-gilt thread. The embroidery is outlined in black silk thread. The coif has cheek-pieces and a widow's peak. The bottom edge is turned and hemmed to form a casing for the original linen tape (width = 1/4 inch or 5 mm). The coif is part-lined, with linen backing the cheek-pieces. The top edge and crown gathers have been unpicked at a later date. The thread count is 90 x 75 threads per inch, approximately.
Dimensions
  • Overall, approx. width: 41.4cm
  • Overall, approx. length: 22.7cm
Styles
Credit line
Bequeathed by Miss Catherine M Slee
Summary
This coif is an 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. The abstract floral pattern and use of silver-gilt thread to fill the shapes may be a transition between the blackwork styles of the late 16th century and those of the early 17th century.



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
T.54-1947

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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