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Coif

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1570-1599 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, silk thread, linen thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered with hand-made bobbin lace

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs M. E. Grubbe

  • Museum number:

    T.12-1948

  • 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. This style of blackwork is characteristic of the 16th 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.

Physical description

A linen coif embroidered with black silk thread in a pattern of flowers and leaves outlined in stem stitch and filled with counted thread infill stitches in geometric repeating patterns. The pattern consists of scrolling stems bearing abstract leaf and flower shapes, interspaced with winged insects. The coif has a widow's peak and cheek pieces, with a narrow edging of linen bobbin lace over the cheek pieces. The seam at the top of the coif has been unpicked.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1570-1599 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Linen, silk thread, linen thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered with hand-made bobbin lace

Dimensions

Width: 42.0 cm overall, approx., Length: 23.3 cm overall, approx

Descriptive line

Woman's coif of linen, 1570-1599, English; Blackwork with geometric infills, floral pattern

Materials

Linen; Silk

Techniques

Embroidering

Subjects depicted

Leaves; Flowers

Categories

Clothing; Embroidery; Lace; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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