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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Medieval Headwear

The earliest head coverings were probably rough clothes or skins designed to protect the wearer from the elements. Through the years, head covers evolved to reflect the status and culture of the wearer.
During the early Middle Ages, women wore simple coifs, wimples, and veils. Coifs were just close-fitting caps, as in this picture, a later painting of young Edward VI by Holbein. Edward wears a coif of cloth-of-gold beneath a feathered hat. Essentially, a, a coif is very similar to a baby's bonnet.
Wimples were cloth head coverings, much like that worn by nuns to this day. However, the cloths could be elaborately folded and starched to become an attractive framework for the face of a medieval woman.
Veils have been worn since early times. In the 13th century B.C. their wear was restricted to noblewomen. Commoners and prostitutes were forbidden to wear them. Later, veils were worn by all women, and it became common for ladies to cover their hair and face when in public.
I’ll be covering 14th and 15th century headgear in future blogs. A good overview of medieval costume and accessories is Medieval Costume in England and France, by Mary G. Houston.

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