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Medieval Women's Headdresses
TEMPLERS & BOSSES - HORNED HEADDRESSES - CRESPINES & CAULS - CYLINDER CAULS
PADDED ROLLS - HEART-SHAPED HEADDRESSES
woman's outfit was not complete without headwear of some kind. A woman's
activity and function would have determined what kind of headwear was
required. Many of these were constructed from fabric but some were built
on a wire base or used metal in their construction This page takes a
brief look at the most popular forms of medieval headdresses.
indicating that these might be made of gold or gold thread. A Dictionary of English Costume by Cunnington and Beard, describes the headdress with the rounded protuberances worn in the late 13th to end of 14th centuries as bosses. The entry reads:
Bosses were more commonly known as templers. These were made of goldsmithry or fine needlework, and were worn over the temples enclosing the hair. They were supported by a connecting fillet crossing above the forehead.
indicating that at that stage the style was persisting. The image detail at left comes from the 15th century Guiard des Moulins Bible Historial, and shows the horned headdress style of headdress.
English headwear researcher, Katrina Wood has this to say:
Along with the hennin, the steeple hennin and the butterfly hennin, the late 15th century saw the return of the horned headdress for the upper classes. The primary difference between this and other previous styles of truncated headdress, is the lack of a padded roll previously seen in earlier versions and the style of gown it was worn with.
This painting by Rogier Van Der Weyden
in the 1500s of Isabella of Portugal is a fine example of the
new richness that this style adopted and the silken veil which was de
rigeur. There appears to be a loop at the top of the forehead centrally
and it is uncertain whether this is attached to the headdress itself
to permit the wearer to pull the piece forward in case of slippage or
whether it is a part of a cap which is worn underneath.
The fabrics used were sturdier than those of the original steeple hennin and were often geometrically patterned brocades. The lozenge design was popular as the cloth could be worked with precious and semiprecious gemstones and pearls according to the pattern of the cloth. Obviously, to show off the workmanship of such a headpiece, the veils accompanying them were the finest and gauziest silks of a generous size. This allowed the wearer to appear modest with a large veil while at the same time displaying her wealth underneath.
The hair was divided into two sections at each side of the head and restrained in cauls made from either fabric or fine metal wire. These were usually held in place with a narrow fillet which may or may not have an additional crown or coronet added. A veil was often worn with the crespine. This fashion persisted on and off over the next few decades. By the time of Edward III in the 14th century, the crespine or caul was still worn, often lined with fabric and highly decorated with pearls, goldwork and gemstones.
The details shown above at left show a
sculpture of Isabela Bavorska dated between 1371 and 1435. It clearly
shows a caul which has been decorated in its entirety. It is very likely
that the groupings of 4 balls in each segment are gemstones, glass beads
or pearls which have been sewn on to a fabric coif. There
is a decorated band along the front which finishes as it curls out of
sight around the jaw line. The headpiece is worn with a jeweled coronet
or fillet over the top.
The image detail at left comes from a rubbing of a monumental brass from the tomb of Sir Thomas Burton and his wife dated at 1381. Although not royal, she still wears an expensive headdress which is studded with jewels across the top.
In his book, Medieval Costume and Fashion, Herbert Norris notes that while the costume for Queen Phillipa shown on her effigy in Westminster Abbey is simple and the headdress is very much damaged, part of the cylinders remain.
In their book, Dress in the Middle Ages, Francois Pipponier & Perrine Mane say that much more voluminous headdresses built up on a padded bourrelet came into fashion. These developed vertically and gave rise to some amazing creations, some spherical, some cylindrical, or even split in two like horns. They are talking of the padded roll incorporated in other headdresses as seen on the heart-shaped headdress.
Shown at right from 1420, Portrait of a Princess, by an unknown painter. She is wearing an expensive houppelande and hair fashionably elongated, European-style with the bejeweled padded roll shaped, not as a circle, but to fit around her hair and forehead.
This style of headdress was much favoured in Europe and was worn alongside other fabulous headwear such as the hennin and the horned headdress. Shown at left is a painting of Isabella of Portugul from Flanders dated at 1430. The richness of her headdress can be clearly seen, with clusters of pearls and gem stones set in a geometric pattern. She also has a securing band under her ear to support the weight of the coif, which is also jeweled.
The padded roll or bourrelet could be made from coloured silks, figured or brocaded velvets or linen. It was often jeweled or decorated and finished off with small circular veils. These veils differed dramatically in that they were often not white, sometimes daggued and usually decorated at the edges.
The heart-shaped headdress continued to
stay in use by the middle classes during the greater part of the 15th
century, even after fashionable women had discarded it about 1465-1470.
The middle classes versions were more simplified and less jewelled,
as befitted their stations in life.
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