Not currently on display at the V&A

Coif

1600-1625 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Linen, silk and silver-gilt thread
Brief Description
Woman's coif, England, 1600-1625; linen embroidered with floral motifs in blackwork, silver-gilt scrolls
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 The original open-work crown seam has been replaced by a modern seam and the crown is simply gathered to take the fullness.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).
Dimensions
  • Crown seam to hem height: 21.8cm
  • On stand width: 17in (maximum)
  • Depth: 20cm
  • Crown seam to hem height: 8.625in
  • Width: 43.2cm (maximum)
  • Weight: 1.06kg
Gallery Label
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)
Credit line
Given by Miss Agnus A. Hepburn and Mrs Margaret Owen
Object history
Made in England
Summary
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.
Collection
Accession Number
T.27-1975

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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