A common myth or 'reeanctorism' I hear in the Regency/Federal period is that 'all married women always wore caps'. I think there is this idea that as soon as the nuptial festivities are over, a committee of very dour matrons show up with the local minister for the awful capping ceremony, wherein the young bride's once pretty locks are shorn in the back, and the cap is surgically installed on her head. Like, that's it, it's over, YOU'VE BEEN CAPPED.
There are a couple of things about this that I feel need to be cleared up. For starters, this seems to sometimes come with the idea that wearing a cap makes you 'old' and caps have to be ugly. Please see below for several images on how this is inaccurate and caps can be very lovely.
However it is also simply not true to say that all married women always wore caps. As evidence, I give you the following sampling of images from Britain and America (you can easily find more if you look around, trust me, I held back).
First, a couple of American examples:
Mrs. John Norton, born Sara Low 1818
oil on canvas Speed Art Museum 19188.8.131.52
Mrs. Ann Booth Gwathmey c. 1820
Filson Historical Society 2010.2.4
And here are a couple of beauties from across the pond:
Mrs. Mary Fisher 1816
And, my personal favorite, two kids and no cap!
Lydia Elizabeth Hoare (1786–1856), Lady Acland
Now, don't get me wrong- caps are great! There are some amazing caps out there I just drool over.
For example, this lovely lady from America
Lucy Price Weisiger 1820
Kentucky Historical Society 2010.54.9
And this stunning British beauty
Mrs Catherine Morey 1814-15
Several stunning extant examples also survive from this period, such as this amazing rouched goodness from the Met
1812 American, linen
And OMFG are you *kidding* me with this amazing craziness?!
1810s American, Cotton
Unmarried women also wore caps, famously including Jane Austen, so it may simply be better to say that older women were more likely to do so (which is not to say that younger ladies cannot wear caps as well). As with many things, if you are looking for a hard and fast rule you may end up leading yourself astray. Caps are an *option*, and a lovely one at that, but they are not a requirement.