Monday, November 5, 2012

Comparing Caps

Comments on the Dutch cap and Mrs. Mifflin prompted this general post.  So let's compare caps.

First the Dutch cap again.

The part of this cap that caught my attention was the tightness to the head, in the style of the later 1770s, that generally is not so close and worn a little differently.  The layers of frills are also very small and tight. By 1778 caps should be exploding all over the place!

Her cap actually reminds me of the caps of young children, it has a lot in common with this child's cap, English c 1778.   I call these, the bathing cap style of the 1950s and 60s. Lots of tight frills, close to the head and face.

Benjamin West

Mrs. Izard by Copley (c 1775) is wearing a frilled cap and yet it looks different.  It is always about proportions, even small ones make a difference.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Mrs. Izard's cap while going over her ears, is set much further back on her head, the frills are not as small and tight and the cap has more curve around the face.  Also the ribbon poufs stand out more from the cap, the entire look is different.  Mrs. Izards's cap is to my eye more three dimensional than the Dutch cap.

The original comments referenced Mrs. Mifflin, another Copley portrait, c 1773.  Mrs. Mifflin is a Quaker, which puts a spin on her cap, something we have to keep in mind.


Her cap while close to the head, just barely touches her ears, and is set far back on her head, away from her face.  I have actually patterned this cap for a cap workshop.  The cap only looked good on me, no one else ended up making the cap in the workshop.  It took a zillion iterations to get the pattern right and I seldom wear it.   I have only seen this style in one other portrait, a relative of Mrs. Mifflin, and I can't find it.  Will post it when I do, it was on the National Portrait Gallery website or a link from it.


  1. Good post, Hallie! It serves very well to show the differences, as well as the similarities, and really reinforces the fact that there were so many wonderful things that could be done with what was basically the same style of cap -- from the simple to the sublime.

    Mrs. Mifflin's cap has always fascinated me because of the way the very front edge is stitched and anchored down, instead of allowing the pleats to ruffle out. I'm guessing that would be a nod to her Quaker "plainness?" And yet, she was allowed the gently poofed ribbon for a touch of style. Wonderful!

    I'd love to see a photo of your Mifflin cap...

  2. Beautiful caps....I have a naive question(s). The caps are made of linen or some other fabric? Are those pleats around the head made the same way you would an Elizabethan ruff?

  3. I have a similar question... I use organdy or very fine handkerchief linen. Is the use of silk organza documented or is it a reenactorism? I've not been able to turn up much data.

    1. Nancy, caps were made out of silk gauze, unfortunately for us, white silk gauze is hard to come by, (I can find it in a cream color) so silk organza is one of those fabric compromises we are faced with using. Not accurate, but the best we can do. Hallie

    2. Thanks for the explanation! I'm guessing organdy is a bit stiffer and more opaque than guaze?