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Coif

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

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 repeating abstract floral motif is unlike the very naturalistic designs seen in blackwork of this period.

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 thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered
Brief Description
Woman's coif of linen, 1590-1610, British; embroidered with blackwork, silver thread, repeating floral motif
Physical Description
A linen coif embroidered with black silk thread in back stitch and French knots, and silver thread couched in knots. The pattern consists of a repeating small floral motif. The coif has very shallow cheek pieces and slight widow's peak. The front edges and top edge are worked with black silk in buttonhole stitch. The bottom edge is turned and hemmed to make a casing for a narrow linen tape. The top seam and crown gathers have been unpicked at a later date.
Dimensions
  • Overall, approx. width: 45.5cm
  • Overall, approx length: 24.6cm
Style
Credit line
Given by Mrs M. E. Grubbe
Summary
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 repeating abstract floral motif is unlike the very naturalistic designs seen in blackwork of this period.



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.13-1948

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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