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Forehead cloth

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1575-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, silk thread, silver thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-embroidered

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A forehead cloth was part of women’s headwear in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was usually worn with a coif and inventories from the period record matching coifs and forehead clothes being made and bought together. However, it is still unclear just how the forehead cloth was worn, as there are very few portraits illustrating both.

This forehead cloth is richly embroidered with precious metal threads and probably once had a matching coif. The repeating pattern of flowers, fruits and insects is typical of the naturalistic embroidery designs of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Physical description

A forehead cloth of linen, embroidered with silk thread in shades of blue, red, green, yellow, pink, black and white in detached buttonhole stitch and couching, and silver and silver-gilt thread in plaited braid stitch, chain stitch and couching, with silver spangles. The pattern consists of scrolling stems bearing carnations, honeysuckle, pansy, roses, cornflower, strawberries, pear, and grapes, with caterpillars and a moth and wasp. The triangular shape of the forehead cloth is outlined with red silk in stem stitch. The forehead cloth is unlined. It is unfinished, the edges raw and unturned, and damaged, with one corner torn off.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1575-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, silk thread, silver thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-embroidered


Width: 34.5 cm overall, approx., Length: 20.5 cm overall, approx.

Descriptive line

Woman's forehead cloth of linen 1575-1625, English; embroidered with silk & metal threads, flowers, fruits, insects

Subjects depicted

Carnation; Honeysuckle; Pear; Moth; Pansy; Caterpillar; Strawberry; Cornflower; Grapes


Clothing; Hats & headwear; Embroidery


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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