Period Head Coverings OR, alternately, What Hat Goes with My Outfit?
Part I: Early Period to 12th Century
I’m not a “Cover your head!” Nazi, but I do think that it adds to the Medieval-esque feel of an event when more people wear the correct hat.
For most of the SCA period, head coverings (head-ware) was not considered optional by either sex. It’s called interchangeably head-ware, headgear, head covering or hats. Unlike today where we wear hats for special occasions or to keep the sun off of our head, head coverings were a part of everyday life, especially for women. You would not step out of your front door without wearing proper headgear.
There was a small time (mid-12th century) when it was acceptable for women not to cover their heads, but for the most part through the ages all older or married women covered their heads.
What was the purpose?
Modesty: There are even a few cultures today which require their people to cover their heads outside of their home.
Lack of hygiene: Their hair was as hard to tame as ours can be. Imagine trying to fix your hair if it is really long and hasn’t been washed for weeks or months. Sticking it all in a hat seems sensible.
Identification: Headwear gave clues to class and occupation. Different classes of people wore different kinds of head coverings. In later period, sumptuary laws were made forbidding lower classes to wear the same head covering that the aristocracy wore.
When in doubt
- For male, wear a coif. If early period, women can too.
- For female, wear a veil
For both Sexes:
- A headrail is pretty much a long rectangle of cloth wrapped around your head.
- From looking at period sources, it can be a variety of colors ranging from bleached linen to red to blue.
- It’s very similar to the modern hijab. In fact, the best directions I could find on wearing one is for a hijab: http://thehijabshop.com/information/how_to_wear.php
- The Encomium Emmae Reginae, 1041-2.
- Cotton Claudius B IV, folio 10, from the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch in the British Library, 11th century.
- Phrygian cap– aka the Smurf hat
- A good site with a pattern on making the Prygian cap is http://www.housebarra.com/EP/ep06/16cap.html
- 7th century depiction of Odin on a Vendel helmet plate, found in Upplan
There was a short time period where women had the option of not wearing a head covering. Starting around 1125, some women began to appear in public with their head uncovered. Their hair, however was not loose, but parted down middle and plaited (braided) in various ways. By the late 12th century, women were back to covering their heads.
- Veils or Braids
- A good site on making and wearing a veil: http://costumeholic.blogspot.com/2010/04/making-and-wearing-medieval-veil.html
- Hunterian Psalter c.1170
- The coif is still around, but it is now more form fitting. It’s also higher in the back than it is at the ear area. Straps can still be thin or wider.
- Closed Hoods
- Simple hoods began showing up at this time. Closed fron at the chest (no buttons), so it needed to be loose enough to slip over the head. The hood, at this time, covered the shoulders and had no tail.
- The colors could be about anything, although red was common. You also see decorations the hoods – this one has a contrasting front and bottom edge.
- Combination of hood and coif
- The coif and the hood could be worn together. It’s not definite if a coif was always worn under the hood, but combining them is not uncommon.
- Phrygian Cap
- Yes, the Smurf hat is still around
- Basic Birka-like Cap
- The basic cap is also still here. It’s a bit shorter and has a more defined band around the edge.
To Be Continued
The pencil drawings were found at: http://sites.tufts.edu/putajewelonit/2011/09/21/glossary-of-english-hairstyles-headdress/
I apologize for using pictures without giving credit. These come from a class handout that I taught on period hear-ware, and I did not document my pictures at the time. If you recognize any, please let me know and I’ll give credit to the artist.