Dressing Up, Dressing Down

Back to Dressing up, Dressing down

nightcap 1971.50.jpg
cap 2003.108
cap detail 2003.108

Nightcaps were worn by men from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, not simply for night attire, but for informal, domestic day and evening wear, specifically after the 1660s, to cover the head after removing the wig. Usually made of linen, and often lavishly embroidered with coloured silks and metal threads, they were made as close-fitting dome-shaped caps in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century they became looser, more like a turban, and were frequently worn with the nightgown or banyan, again, not for bed but for informal relaxing about the house, or even for entertaining family and friends.

The yellow nightcap in the main image dates from around 1700, and is entirely covered with floral embroidery on a split-stitch yellow silk ground, with blue silk ties and trim. The black and white print below shows an eighteenth century man sitting at ease in a similar cap, having taken off his heavy hot wig. The other embroidered cap below is more dome-shaped and dates from the early seventeenth century. It is highly decorated with silk and silver thread embroidery and stitched with popular classical motifs like the phoenix and the obelisk surrounded by a scrolling leaf and flower design. Blackwork caps were also common, as were white linen ones, quilted for warmth, or trimmed with expensive bobbin or needlelaces.

Full item descriptions:

"cap & nightcap" [2003.108]
"cap & nightcap" [1971.50]

Related Themes:

Banyans & Men's Gowns
Filmer Collection
18th Century Men's Fashion