Caps were fashionable and popular in the 1860s and followed the fashion styles of bonnets that were being worn at the same time. Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, described caps in 1862 “as usually pretty…[and] no longer resembl[ing] the old-fashioned cap, but are rather an elegant headdress.” The newest English caps for 1867 tended to fit that description. They also tended to fit close to the head and they accommodated the popular hairstyles. One reason caps were popular was that they could be worn both indoors and outdoors and they helped to keep the hair tidy and to prevent dust and dirt from attaching to it.
Caps were often created from muslin and guipure, which is a heavy lace that consists of embroidered motifs held together by large connecting stitches. Sometimes, however, caps were made from net, knitted wool, or cashmere and were trimmed with laces such as blond, Belgian, Cluny, Chantilly, or Honiton. Caps at this time also tended to sport oval crowns and to be decorated with ruching, bouillonnes, and pleats, as well as lace, bows, ribbons, and strings.
Four caps, typical for this time period, are shown and described in this post.
The morning cap shown above is made from plain muslin and was considered an informal cap as the hair was enclosed in it. It had a limp crown and the top of the cap was decorated with three bouillonnes of muslin, divided by insertion, and surrounded with narrow lace. The front was trimmed with wide lace, arranged in large pleats, and finished on either side with muslin bows that were edged with colored ribbon. There was also long flowing strings to match.
The “Mathilde” cap shown to the left was more formal than the morning cap. It had a crown of guipure and was trimmed with a ruching of muslin. It was edged on each side with narrow Cluny lace and another ruche was placed behind to form a curtain. The muslin strings were decorated with insertion and surrounded by Cluny lace.
The dinner cap shown at the right was made from guipure. It was trimmed with ribbon bouillonne that surrounded the top of the head. Loops of similar ribbon decorated the front and ribbon string was fastened in a bow at the rear of the cap. Sometimes the strings, ribbons, or the lappets were fastened under the chin, as shown here with the guipure strings loosely tied. However, by 1880 no strings, ribbons, or lappets existed on caps.
The fanchon or half kerchief, which was first introduced in 1837, was still popular in 1867. Sometimes fanchons were small and little more than a triangular piece of fabric. Other times they were large enough to cover or drape over a chignon, which was the popular, casual, and everyday hairstyle worn by most women.
The chignon was easily achieved by pinning, coiling, or plaiting the hair into a large knot or roll at the nape of the neck. Chignons tended to grow larger between the early 1860s and the 1870s until they reached the point it was necessary to use false hair pieces to achieve the large size.
The fanchon shown at the left was made from muslin and had appliqued lace flowers on the crown and strings. It was also entirely trimmed with wide lace, headed by colored ribbon, and decorated on its sides with bows made from the same colored ribbon.
- Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, Vol. 65, 1862
- The Young Englishwoman, London, 1867