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Headwear of the Middle Ages
CHAPLETS & GARLANDS - FILLETS, BARBETTES & TORQUES

As one might imagine, a woman's outfit was not complete without some kind of headwear. As with today, a medieval woman had many options- from straw hats, to hoods to elaborate headpieces. A woman's activity and occasion would dictate what she wore on her head.

The middle ages, particularly the 14th and 15th centuries, were home to some of the most outstanding and gravity-defying headwear in history.

Before the hennin rocketed skywards, padded rolls and truncated and reticulated headdresses graced the heads of fashionable ladies everywhere in Europe and England. Cauls, the cylindrical cages worn at the side of the head and templers added to the richness of dress of the fashionable and the well-to-do. Other more simple forms of headdress included the coronet or simple circlet of flowers. This page is broken into six sections:

COIFS

CROWNS AND CIRCLETS

HATS AND HENNINS

HEADDRESSES
A look at some of the fantastic headdresses of the middle ages- crespines & cauls, templers & bosses, cylinder cauls, horned headdresses, padded rolls and heart-shaped headdresses

VEILS AND WIMPLES
No, not just for nuns, keep the sun off and be stylish! Frilled, goffered, edged, layered, veils, gorgets and wimples.

HOODS
Keeping toasty warm in a medieval winter

Chaplets and Garlands
In Anglo-Saxon times, garlands of flowers were worn by both sexes on festive occasions such as May Day, Whitsun and weddings. This trend continued right through to the mid 14th century. The expression chapeau de fleurs or 'hat of flowers' did not mean literally any form of hat, but simply a circlet of forget-me-nots or roses, which was deemed an indispensable part of dress for balls or festivities from early in the medieval period.

Eleanor of Province introduced the fashion of gold or silver imitation flowers, which were often set with clusters of jewels or enamels. These ornate floral wreaths were popular with noble ladies. These fine, metalwork circlets were called guirlands or garlands for worn for special events. These has the advantage of not fading and of providing an opportunity to display a costly dress accessory to others.

In their book, Dress in the Middle Ages, Francois Pipponier & Perrine Mane write that a woman needed money to put up a good show on their wedding day, and also for the purchase of a jewelled, or imitation jewelled, chaplet or garland to wear on their head.

Fillets, Barbettes and Torques
Around the 12th century, the fillet, torque or toque was nothing more than a stiff, narrow band of cloth used to secure a woman's veil. It is widely seen on statues throughout the early medieval period. These days we usually refer to them collectively as circlets. Shown at the right is dated between 1340 and 1360 of the Madonna and Child.

Eventually the fillet widened into a stiffened linen band which could be about 2 to 2 and a half inches in width. A working class woman might have a smaller, simple white linen one to secure her veil. An upper class woman would certainly have taken the opportunity to embroider and work pearls and jewels into her headband. Royal and noble ladies placed their coronets or circlets round the rim when wearing them on any important occasion. An excerpt from Manners, Customs, Dress In the Middle Ages by Paul Lacroix states-

Frontlets or fronteaux, a species of fillet made of silk, covered with gold and precious stones, superseded the chapeau de fleurs, as they had the advantage of not fading. They also possessed the merit of being much more costly, and were thus the means of establishing in a still more marked manner distinctions in the social positions of the wearers.

A narrow chin band was sometimes adopted which was called a barbette. Knotted mesh hairnets became a part of the usual headdress for English women in the 13th century.

At this time, many contemporary images show the hair loose and flowing, such as seen in manuscripts of the 14th century such as the Manesse Codex, shown at top left. These women were more than likely young and unmarried.

The detail at left of a woman blacksmith comes from the Holkham Bible dated in the 1330s. It shows how a working class woman would have worn the coif, fillet and barbette in a workplace environment to keep her hair secured while she worked.

The filet and barbette gradually became less popular in the early part of the 14th century in favour of plaits worn on each side of the face, a French fashion which evolved before the end of the 13th century.

The bust shown at right is dated between 1327 and 1341 is of Marie de France. Her fillet shows holes where jewels or semiprecious stones once were. This style of headdress was adopted by both the lower classes and the upper classes. The main difference in the styles here was in the richness of the fillet securing the plaits.

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