Elizabethan Coif
c 1610-20

A coif was a close fitting woman's indoor cap in the late 16th and early 17th century.  Quite often worn with a triangular forehead cloth which were tied under the coif.  To wear a coif was a sign of respectability. Women's heads were always covered when in company or outside and plainer ones sometimes worn under hats. The fashion for monochrome embroidery on linen appears in portraits and descriptions by the late 15th century.



the fine linen ground embroidered with coiling goldwork tendrils, worked in plaited stitch containing three flowerheads, the calyx in raised  goldwok in a basket weave stitch, the flowers in black silks in cross stitch, the coif's edges applied with gold plaited bobbin lace attached with hand cut spangles, the top with a turned in seam, partly open, the rest with simple stitches, the base with original linen ties or strings, linen lining to most of the inside , 8 in or 20 cm down.



Very good. As you will be able to see some of the black stitches have worn and one is left with a skeleton markings with some black thread. It is quite normal in black silk thread of this age. for there to be a loss of silk, owing to the oxidizing effect of black dye on silk thread. One side is more worn than the other. Often the strings are missing from coifs so it is rather nice that they have survived with this one.


Highly collectable. The designer or embroiderer pricked through the lines of a paper design to produce perforated holes, then placed the paper on the linen. Using pounce (finely ground charcoal or other such substance) the design was transmitted to the linen when the design was inked, ready for embroidering. The design would have come from pattern books of ornamental designs or printed patterns, which due to the printing press were circulated more widely at this time. The same designs, which originated in the Middle East, were used for metalwork, plasterwork and furniture.  The design may have been drawn by a professional and embroidered by a professional or an amateur woman.

  • Arnold, Janet  with Jenny Tiramani Patterns of Fashion 4 c 1540-1660 p 46.
  • Brooks, Mary M English Embroideries p 72
  • Epstein, Kathleen British Embroidery  p 40
  • English Embroidrey from The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1580-1700  p 172
  • Seligman and Hughes Domestic Needlework pl 8a
  • Hackenbroch English and Other Needlework p 5 pl 2


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