Sunday, July 12, 2015

To cap or not to cap?

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 1971.1.6.2


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.


  1. Just discovered your blog from a Pinterest pin that referenced your ringlets post. I had a post complimentary to this one on May 8, 2015, as part of the "Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment" series of 21 posts to date! I'm going to be doing another cap post sometime in the summer, since I made a cap from a pattern from an old book, and want to draft the pattern so costumers can use it.