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Smoking cap

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered felt in coloured silks, lined with machine-quilted silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs A. L. M. Fowler

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 3

Object Type
Smoking caps provided scope for exoticism, bright colours and embroidered decoration. They were usually made of felt, which was often quilted on the inside for comfort and warmth.

Ownership & Use
Smoking caps became popular during the early 1850s. They were often worn with smoking jackets, 'a kind of short robe-de-chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino, or printed flannel; lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives or large buttons' (The Gentleman's Magazine of Fashion, 1852). Men put them on when they withdrew to the smoking room for an after-dinner cigar or cigarette.

The chain stitch embroidery on this example was probably worked in northern India. The felt would then have been imported into Britain or Europe, where it was made up into the cap. Sometimes caps had tassels attached to give added flair. Smoking rooms were sometimes in Turkish/Islamic styles as part of these generalised exotic associations.

The smoking cap hardly survived the close of the 19th century, but the smoking jacket continued to be worn, often in place of the dinner jacket as an informal coat for an evening at home. Tobacco was originally smoked in a pipe or was taken in the form of snuff (tobacco mixed with spices). Cigars were introduced into Britain in about 1812,by soldiers returning from the Peninsular War. Cigarette smoking was a habit introduced by men returning from the Crimean War of 1854-1856.

Physical description

Smoking cap made from embroidered black felt with an Indian type design in chain stitch. The cap is round with a flat crown and straight band. The embroidery is in coloured silks in shades of yellow, pink, blue, white and green and is stitched in a series of formal floral designs around a central floral motif on the crown, and the main portions of the design is outlined in red. The band is similarly treated. The cap is lined with machine-quilted back silk.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1870 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered felt in coloured silks, lined with machine-quilted silk


Height: 9 cm, Diameter: 17 cm

Descriptive line

Smoking cap of embroidered felt in coloured silks, England, ca. 1870

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Men often wore colourful caps with their smoking jackets. The cap helped prevent the hair from smelling of cigarette or cigar smoke. They were usually made in a pork-pie shape with a tassle on top. [27/03/2003]


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


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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