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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1575-1599 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, linen thread, silk thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs M. E. Grubbe

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. The motifs in the shape of leaves, flowers and insects are filled with counted-thread stitches arranged to create repeating geometric designs, a style of blackwork characteristic of the 16th century. This coif is lavishly embellished with silver-gilt thread, which fills the scrolling stems in the design and highlights the leaves, flowers and fruits.

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

A linen coif embroidered with black silk in chain and back stitches, with silver-gilt thread in plaited-braid stitch. The pattern consists of scrolling stems outlined in black and filled with silver-gilt, bearing roses, honeysuckle, pomegranate, carnation, pansies, acorns, and pears, worked in black and embellished with silver-gilt. The individual motifs are filled with repeating geometrical patterns worked in back stitch. The outline of the coif is embroidered in black silk in stem stitch. The coif has cheek-pieces and a widow's peak and turned casing at the bottom. Remaining threads suggest that a lace border was once sewn to the front edges. The top seam and crown gathers have been unpicked at a later date.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1575-1599 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, linen thread, silk thread, silver-gilt thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered


Width: 41.0 cm overall, approx., Length: 22.5 cm overall, approx.

Descriptive line

Woman's coif of linen, 1575-1599, British; embroidered with blackwork, silver-gilt thread, flowers and fruits


Linen; Silk



Subjects depicted

Pear; Carnation; Roses; Pomegranate; Pansy; Honeysuckle; Acorn


Clothing; Fashion; Hats & headwear; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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