A Guide to Women's 18th Century Caps

Women's 18th Century Caps

We can research caps through paintings and drawings, newspaper ads and runaway ads and the occasional written tidbit of a description. Extant examples of 19th century caps exist in numbers but seldom those from the 18th century. We can learn some from these later caps but they changed greatly as time went on. They appear in paintings in various shapes and forms but always white. There are at least two parts to a cap, the band and the crown. The crown is gathered at the back neck edge and there is often a ruffle attached to the band. The cap can tie under the chin or be held in place with a gathering tie at the back neck edge pulling it tight enough to stay in place. It may also have lappets, which are pictured below. Caps may be made of linen, including fine gauze and lawn, and lace. The finer fabrics represent a cap for 'the better'.

Choosing a style of cap

The design of a cap followed the current hairstyle; for those of us portraying a countrywoman, the hair should be simply styled, close to the head with NO BANGS. When deciding on a style for yourself, first, consider the role you are representing, your social standing, your age, and the occasion. For instance, dressed in your ball gown with your hair piled high, or with a wig, you wouldn't need a cap, but that's for another discussion. A woman in her best day dress, possibly having been aided in styling her hair by a servant girl, might wear a beautiful shear gauze cap with much of her hair showing. Her servant girl would be fashionably dressed as well with a fashionable cap especially if she was to be seen with her mistress. The farmer's daughter going about her work, would likely have a cap that covered her hair, which may have needed covering!

What Is a Mobcap AND What IT IS NOT!

Terminology in the 18th century varied just as spelling did. In reading through the written sources for clues to what clothing was like, you will be confused at times as to what is being referred to. Cap and mobcap, or mob, are just a few examples. What is a mobcap? The term is often used in modern books that don't cover clothing in detail when referring to an 18th century cap. One source specific to the study of clothing suggests that as the hair styles got higher in the later part of the century and as the caps got larger to accommodate the height, that these might be called mobcaps, some times shortened to mobs. The term mobcap is legitimate to the 18th century but elusive in its true meaning. We do know that it is NOT the round circle of cloth gathered into a circle with a drawstring of whatever, thought of as such by the modern day reenactor. There is no documentation to base this cap on, no matter how many movies it appears in. And, it is not a "mopcap" with a "p"!