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Tudor – Elizabethan Hairstyles and Headwear

Tudor – Elizabethan Hairstyles and Headwear

In France, England, and the Low Countries, black hoods with veils at the back were worn over linen undercaps that allowed the front hair (parted in the middle) to show. These hoods became more complex and structured over time. Unique to England was the Gable/English hood, a wired headdress shaped like the gable of a house. Originally a simple pointed hood with decorated side panels called lappets and a veil at the back, over time the gable hood became a complex construction stiffened with buckram, with a box-shaped back and two tube-shaped hanging veils at 90-degree angles; the hanging veils and lappets could be pinned up in a variety of ways to make complex headdresses.

Below.. Mary Wotton, Lady Guildenford, wearing a gable hood with pinned up lappets and a hanging veil.

Below.. Catherine of Aragon 1525, Queen Catherine wears the gable headdress with lappets turned up. Note the length of the front jewelled portion. In its early form this extended below the chin. In later years it was at chin length or higher. Note also that the black drape in the back hangs down. In later hoods one or both “tails” were turned up and pinned to the top of the bonnet.

Sketch 1540, This Includes a rare view of the back of this headdress which raises some interesting questions: the back appears to contain structural elements, that is, it appears to be a stiffened box. The veil does not appear to be cast over the back of the headdress, but affixed or sewn to it in some way.

Below.. Margaret, Marchioness of Dorset. Elizabeth I’s godmother, the sketch was probably done at the time of Elizabeth’s christening.

Below.. Lady Elyot, Holbein, 1532. The starchy headdress Lady Eliot wears seems to have been of a design baffling even to Holbein, probably because of the way in which it prevents that definition of the back of the head which allows the face to jut into the picture space convincingly.

The first intimations of this emerging Tudor style can be seen in the picture of Margaret Beaufort, painted in 1503. She is wearing a long veil, a common style of headwear for the time, but the front section is heavily starched and stiffened into a point. For the next decades the structure of the gable hood did not change significantly from the headdress worn by Queen Katharine. The jeweled billiments vary widely in design and color, as does the embroidery of the lappets and the stylish pinning , shaping and draping of the bulky hood fabric in the back, but the construction and shape of the English hood remains consistant throughout. As the 1530s progressed, the sides of the English Hood became shorter. The billiments ended above the jaw, rather than at the chin line, and the side lappets and veil were pinned up.

A new, lighter form of headwear began to make an appearance in the 1530s. Worn mostly by younger women, this hood combined the square shape of the gable hood with the flatter, less bulky silhouette of the emerging french hood. Anne Cresacre is shown wearing such a hood, which can be called a “transitional” english hood for lack of a better word. It lays flat across the top and bends down at the sides, creating a square profile

This style of hood coexisted with the older gable variety; the More family sketch below, created in 1528, provides a snapshot of women of different ages wearing different headwear. In actuality, this square-shaped hood had much in common with the newly emerging fashion that was soon to replace the gable hood: the French Hood

A simple rounded hood of the early years of the century evolved into the French hood, popular in both France and England; its arched shape sat further back on the head and displayed the front hair which was parted in the center and pinned up in braids or twists under the veil. The origins of the French hood can be seen in portraits of Anne of Brittany in the early 1500s.

The French hood is characterized by a rounded shape, contrasted with the angular “English” or gable hood. It is worn over a coif, and has a black veil attached to the back. Unlike the more conservative gable hood, it displays the front part of the hair. The French hood, obviously enough, had its origins in France. A painting of a young Katharine of Aragon 1520 below, shows its origins-a veil similar to that worn on English Gable hoods, but with a wired front which stiffened it into a round shape, rather than a pointed top. The golden-colored, pleated band showing at the front of her veil remained an integral part of the french hood of the next two decades, but the construction, shape and silhouette of the rest changed drastically.

Although popularly associated with Anne Boleyn, it was probably introduced to the English court by Mary Tudor, Queen of France, who is depicted wearing one in a wedding portrait from around 1516. However, English women at the time mostly wore the gable hood, and so it did not achieve much popularity in England until the 1530s In September 1537, Honor Grenville, Viscountess Lisle, a Tudor noblewoman whose correspondence is documented, requested from the merchant William le Gras: “many hats, such as the ladies wear in France, for now the ladies here follow the French fashion.”

Despite its growth in popularity, the then-Queen Jane Seymour forbade her ladies from wearing the French hood, in favour of the the Gable/English hood. Known as “billiments” by the people of the time, these decorative jeweled and pearled edges were, though not essential, a fashionable addition to a plain french hood. Billiments sometimes matched the jeweled edging of a gown the portrait of Queen Elizabeth as a young girl, painted in 1545 below, shows her wearing a french hood of the same fabric of her gown as well. This, however, is not the case with most portraits; the majority of french hoods were black satin, taffeta or velvet, with at most an edging of white fabric along the top or bottom.

A black veil was attached to the inside back of the hood, where it fell to below the shoulders. When the french hood first appeared in portraits of the nobility, its shape was not radically dissimilar to that of the transitional English hood-it was pretty much the same shape, but wired into a round rather than square silhouette. Most profile images of ladies wearing the French hood show that the hood sits flat against the head. Sculpture, especially funerary sculpture provides the best visual evidence of French hood construction.

As it gained in popularity, however, the shape of the french hood evolved-the tips of the hood narrowed into points and the side curve grew more pronounced, “Squared” allowing the wearer to arrange her hair into poufs at either side of her head. The fashionable variety in french hoods was much greater than that of the gable hood, not only the fabric and decoration of french hoods differed from piece to piece, but the shape of the wired base could be changed as well to create different profiles. Queen Mary, for instance, wore a french hood with a round profile when younger, but in later years favored one with a flatter Squared top.

Katharine Howard, King Henry’s fifth wife, is painted in a late Tudor (1540s) French hood which looks quite different from the hood worn by Anne Boleyn. It is white, and has a much curvier shape. It shows a strap underneath Katharine’s chin keeping the hood in place.

By the time Queen Elizabeth was firmly ensconced upon the throne of England, the headwear of the well-to-do and the nobility had changed dramatically. The hood, now sometimes referred entirely as a “billiment” as well as a french hood, shrank even more in the 1560s and 1570s into a delicate arrangement of lace, jewelry, pearls, and fabric placed far back on the crown of the head. The jeweled decorations grew in size and complexity, while the body of the hood is mostly hidden by bouffant hair and the decorative edgings.

Head coverings during the 16th century ranged from the simple to the complex. The simplest, which was worn throughout the 16th century and well into the 17th, was the “coif”. It’s quite simply, a close-fitting cap made of a light fabric, usually white or naturally-coloured linen (or silk, for the nobility).

It was worn for reasons headwear has been worn for centuries–warmth, protection from the elements, and to keep hair out of the face but it’s most important functions during this time were conferring respectability upon a woman, and, for more skilled and affluent people, for decoration.

Below.. The front edge of Anne Boleyn’s coif is far back on the crown, with tabs on either side coming forward past the jawline. The front edge is also wired with a heavy wire, presumably to keep its shape and to help keep it on the head. The coif seems to conform quite smoothly to the head. There is also another head covering worn under the coif, visible along the front, which looks to be a band of fabric holding back hair. Two metal clips are seen on either side of the coif to aid in keeping an English hood on the head, straps sewn onto the underside of the cheekpieces of the hood, when slipped underneath these clips, would keep the hood on quite firmly and invisibly.

The line of the coif follows quite closely the line of the gable and transitional hoods worn at the time, a good indication that this coif was worn underneath a hood as well as by itself.

As headwear became more revealing, coifs became more and more visible and more and more popular as a fashionable item of headwear, especially among the middle classes and working women.

A sketch of London Gentlewomen, drawn in 1570 by Flemish artist Lucas de Heere, is one of the best examples we have of coifs worn during this decade. This picture also illustrates the variety in coif styles and headcoverings to be found in one place and one moment in time.

Although years later than the coifs sketched by Holbein, this painting of Katherine Grey has some similarities to the coif worn by Boleyn. The front top rests further back on the crown. The back is not seen, but one can postulate that it is shaped by a seam running down the back of the head and/or gathered at the base of the neck.

An attifet is a heart-shaped headdress with a point that dips over the forehead, worn by European women in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was first worn by Catherine de Medici and Mary Queen of Scots Below. The attifet originated in France and was later also worn in countries such as England, Scotland and Czechoslovakia. Typically, the front of the attifet was held in shape by a wire frame. It dipped to a point over the forehead and then curved up and back in an arc on both sides.

The attifet was usually made of silk or linen, and trimmed with lace or pearls. It was normally white, although there was also a black variant known as a widow’s hood, this is where the term widow’s peak (a V-shaped growth of hair towards the centre of the forehead.) comes from.

Snoods are a very popular item at renaissance fairs. Most of them are crocheted; some are beaded. Some tie off with a string, while others have elastic in the band to keep the snood on ones head. Snoods are convenient. They keep the hair out of the face and off of the neck.

Unfortunately, the snoods you usually see sold at renaissance faires aren’t themselves authentic. Crochet wasn’t invented until the 17th century. In period, hairnets were made by knotting thread or cord together, rather like fishing nets and the thread or cord was much finer than crocheted netting.

In Spain, the gathered bag–known as a cofia, redecilla (little net), albenaga, or garvin–could be made of fine linen, silk, or netting. Some of these headcoverings allowed the hair to hang free beneath while others contained the hair beneath.

In Italy, a fashionable early 16th century headdress known as the balzo was similar to a snood; it was a large gathered bag, often made of woven strips of fabric, fancy gold material and lace, or other materials, worn over the hair

The Elizabethan gentlewoman didn’t wear a snood per se. She did wear something similar, which was called a “caul”. A caul was a small bag pinned over the bun and hair at the back of the head

The Balzo was a headdress worn by noblewomen of Italy in the 1530s. It was donut-shaped but appeared turban-like from the front, though it was generally worn further back from the forehead exposing the hair. To wear the balzo the hairline was often plucked. Though mostly known as a woman’s headdress, there is evidence that men also wore a form of the balzo. It is also known as a capigliara.

A flat cap is a rounded cap with a small stiff brim in front. The hat is also known in Scotland as a bunnet in the Scots language and in Wales as a Dai cap. A 1571 Act of the English Parliament was enacted to stimulate domestic wool consumption and general trade decreed that on Sundays and holidays, all males over 6 years of age, except for the nobility and “persons of degree”, were to wear woollen caps or pay a fine of three farthings (3/4 penny) per day.

Mens’ and womens’ hats were interchangeable. Flat, black and sometimes with a feather and some jewels depending on their status. Coifs would sometimes peak through the front and sides.

Henry VIII and his son Edward VI favoured the flat cap.

A Cap and bells or a Fool’s cap featured hornes, bells, ass’s ears, ass’s tails often curling forward, ill faces cockscombs and other such fopperies, were worn by court jesters, or fools Other forms of fool’s cap in England were shaped like a monk’s cowl with ass’s ears, a high-pointed cap covered with bells, or a round cap with an imposing feather.

The Steuchlein is made up of several layers, the unterhaube or under coif/cap, the wulsthaube or padded cap, and the haube covering (Schleiertuch) which makes up the whole hat known as a steuchlein. The Steuchlein was favored by Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves

Starting as early as 1480, the four cornered cap appears on the heads of various men of education and consequence, such as clergymen, senators, lord mayors, and physicians. Some versions had extensions that came down to cover the ears, and some had that extension tied up on top of the head, while others were symmetrical all the way around with no extension at all.

The Tall Hat was first worn by men starting around the 1570s mostly in England, the Low Countries, & Spain. Women soon adopted the style, particularly when worn with high necked doublet-style bodices.

A Bongrace was a velvet-covered headdress, stiffened with buckram.

Straw hat seem to have been worn primarily by workers laboring outdoors, but straw hats were also worn by people enjoying other outdoor pastimes.

Most hairstyles were influenced by Queen Elizabeth. Her hair color was emulated by many of the nobility, as was the fair hair ideal of an ideal woman. An Upper Class Elizabethan woman might even dye her hair with a mixture of saffron, cumin seed, celandine and oil. Fashion dictated that hair was combed away from the forehead. women would pluck the hairs from around the hairline and completely removed their eyebrows by plucking or shaving as a high forehead was fashionable. one reason for the popularity of the bare forehead was that women were using corrosive hair dyes, as well as lead-based powder called ceruse that was intended to whiten their complexions and cover blemishes.

Periwigs were made of up curls or frizzed hair styled into tiny wave. They were built into an array of shapes, often symmetrical. Queen Elizabeth had a wide variety of wigs and hair pieces – believed to number over eighty! Frizzed hair was favoured by Queen Elizabeth and therefore followed by ladies of the court

Tudor and Elizabethan Hair Styles for men were jus as important as they were for women. The length of hair varied during the Elizabethan era. It started as short closely cropped hairstyles and increased in length during the period. Considerable time was spent grooming the hair, especially when it was fashionable to sport a longer length. Long hair was required to be curly! Men had their hair curled with hot irons. To keep the hair in place wax or gum was applied to the hair!

During the Elizabethan era pamphlets were printed and distributed commenting on life in Elizabethan England…

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