Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1590-1610 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, linen thread, silk thread, silver 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 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.

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.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1590-1610 (made)



Materials and Techniques

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


Width: 45.5 cm overall, approx., Length: 24.6 cm overall, approx

Descriptive line

Woman's coif of linen, 1590-1610, British; embroidered with blackwork, silver thread, repeating floral motif


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


Textiles and Fashion Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.