17 November 2013

The Lappet Cap Craze

A few weeks ago I called Kitty Calash gushing with excitement after a little antiquing adventure...I had just purchased what appeared to be a non colonial-revival lappet cap. And I didn't pay a fortune! (It was more like lunch at Panera.)

I've never been inclined to like lappet caps...

...I think of them as either frumpy...
Sarah Porter, 1750s-1760s

...or from an era that's earlier than I normally portray.
Mrs. Faber, mid 18th century 

In preparing for What Cheer Day, the importance of lappet caps became apparent. My mid century lappet wouldn't work for an 1800 event and I skirted the issue of wearing one (and making one) by portraying someone who wasn't married. But they are important. I'm told that they were quite common in the late 18th and early 19th century, so I will need to make one.

The cap I found has some great details that suggest its age is close to my era.

 The linen is much more white in person than it appears in the photos.
  • It's made with two kinds of fabric: a very fine linen for the ruffle and a heavier linen for the rest of the cap.
  • It's constructed with period techniques such as lapped seams and stroke gathers. 
  • And, of course, it's hand sewn with perfect little stitches.
Stroke gather envy!

I have not yet been able to pinpoint an era for it...nor have I been able to answer any of the questions that it raised for me such as: "How long were caps like this worn into the 19th century? If they were worn in the late 19th century, would they have been hand sewn? Can the shape of the lappet, which isn't very dramatic or long, help me narrow down an era in which it was worn?"

I've started a Pinterest board for cap research, and I hope to dig into this cap craze more in the coming months. While I'm still not stoked about the idea of wearing, and making, a lappet cap the shape of this less dramatic lappet is one I could tolerate--and even be excited about. 

If you have any thoughts on an era for this cap and / or ideas about lappet research, please let me know!


  1. It looks a lot like some of the caps worn on the show, Cranford. For the show, the costume designers wanted to portray the women kind of 'stuck' fashion wise in the era in which they were most comfortable. Not all the ladies wore the latest fashion. Miss Deborah, for example, wore this kind of cap while some of the other ladies wore caps which looked lighter and had more ruffles. You might find some answers there. Good luck.

    1. Yes I know "Cranford" and have been wondering the same thing! I'm hoping that by investigating some fashion prints from that era I can narrow it down. : )

  2. What a find! Thank you for sharing it with us. Since for various reasons extant caps are often so poorly dated, if it ere me I'd create a spreadsheet and catalog prints, drawings and paintings. For fields I'd include the image and maker, the date, age and status of wearer, type of cap, relative width of frills, of headpiece (band), and depth and height of caul, and situation worn in. Then I'd collect as many images as possible, and see what comes up. That might help you to come up with a date range.

    Very best,


    1. Thanks Natalie! Yes, I'm very excited about this find and appreciate your suggestions about organizing research!

  3. That is a great score!

    Cap styles seem to persist beyond all other styles, which makes them hard to date. I think Natalie's idea is a good one, because I'm guessing that we're missing some subtle variations that would help date caps. The trouble will be that women find a cap style and stick with it beyond it's most fashionable point. (The way certain haircuts persist beyond their moment.) The Ege-Galt family painting is a good example of a mix of cap and clothing styles in multiple generations of a single family.

    There are probably also class differences, and then religious ones, too. (It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it?) I did a search at work and realized I had a lot of cataloging to clean up, but we recently got a gift that included a number of caps documented to Providence in the 19th century. That's a long time span, but they might be worth looking at.

    The miniatures gallery might be helpful, too.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the leads...I'm looking forward to chatting about this more with you!

  4. I wish I had friends that liked to dress up in period outfits like this. I live vicariously through blogs like this so I humbly and enthusiastically request...more photos please!

    1. Yes photos from events are the best!

      Is there a costuming group in your area? I've made many great friends through living history events in my region. : )

  5. I meant of modern ladies in period attire. Your posts are actually great on posting photos. See? Never mind. Awkward!


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