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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, silk and silver-gilt thread

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss Agnus A. Hepburn and Mrs Margaret Owen

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Like a man's nightcap, a woman's coif was informal headwear. It would have been worn by itself indoors, or with a hat on top in public.

Ownership & Use
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. In literature and paintings, to be bareheaded often signified emotional distress or even insanity.

Designs & Designing
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, red or green) on linen, and often highlighted with precious metal threads.

Physical description

Linen embroidered coif with black silk in stem, chain and speckling stitches and with silver-gilt thread in chain, vandyke, plaited braid, and ladder stitches with spider knots. The edges are turned and hemmed with linen thread and over sewn with black silk in open knotted buttonhole stitch. The neck edge is plain for the last half inch and has a series of button holed loops attached to the edge to take the draw-string. The original open-work crown seam has been replaced by a modern seam and the crown is simply gathered to take the fullness. Three and a half horizontal rows of coiling stem which are also linked vertically to produce a tightly-knit over-all pattern. The coils contain (left to right), peas, foxgloves, carnation, columbine, pea, foxglove (part): rose, borage, exotic, honeysuckle, rose; cornflower, strawberry, pear, rose, cornflower, strawberry (last row not clear).

Place of Origin

England (made)


1600-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Linen, silk and silver-gilt thread


Height: 21.8 cm crown seam to hem, Width: 17 in on stand maximum, Depth: 20 cm, Height: 8.625 in crown seam to hem, Width: 43.2 cm maximum, Weight: 1.06 kg

Object history note

Made in England

Descriptive line

Woman's coif, England, 1600-1625; linen embroidered with floral motifs in blackwork, silver-gilt scrolls

Labels and date

British Galleries:
A woman's coif was informal headwear, but was usually elaborately decorated. This one is a fine example of blackwork. Speckling stitch, a random scattering of stitches, imitated the texture of woodblock prints. Many of the motifs used in embroidery were copied from woodblock-printed emblem books and needlework designs. [27/03/2003]


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


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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