of the Middle Ages
CHAPLETS & GARLANDS - FILLETS, BARBETTES &
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
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:
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
No, not just for nuns, keep the sun off and be stylish! Frilled,
goffered, edged, layered, veils, gorgets and wimples.
Keeping toasty warm in a medieval winter
Chaplets and Garlands
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.
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.
at the right is dated between 1340 and 1360 of the Madonna
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.
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.
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.