|Lucy, Countess of Carlisle. Ham House © National Trust|
Originally a tippet was, according to the Oxford English Dictionary a “hanging part of dress, formerly worn, either attached to and forming part of the hood, head-dress, or sleeve, or loose, as a scarf or the like.” Certain the term was widely used in the medieval period for the long tail to a hood, so that Chaucer’s Reeve wore “his tipet wounden about his heed.” Randle Holme in his Academy of Armory (iii. 12/1) writes that “The Tippet hangs from the hinder part of the Crown, and reacheth backwards to the ground,” he also considered it part of the French hood which survived from the sixteenth century into the seventeenth century where, “A French Hood ...having the Flap or Tippet hanging down the wearers Back, may be termed a Mourning-hood.”
The second meaning given for a tippet in the OED is “A garment, usually of fur or wool, covering the shoulders, or the neck and shoulders; a cape or short cloak, often with hanging ends.” Costume historians have often used this term for things in the seventeenth century that were worn around the neck, especially if made of fur, but until the 1670s such items seem to be referred to only by the type of fur and how they were worn.
In 1639, when Lady Verney writes to her husband regarding a portrait she is having done by Van Dyck she says “I have some sables with the clasp of them set with dimons, if those that I am pictuerde in were don so, I think it would look very well in the picture.” While many of Van Dyck’s portraits show women with a silk or fabric scarf on the shoulder a few, by him or his circle or followers, show this type of fur. An example with a jewelled clasp, such as Lady Verney mentions, is shown in the portrait of Lady Lucy Percy (1599–1660), Countess of Carlisle in the National Trust collection at Ham House (above right) with another copy of the same portrait at Petworth House. When on the 22nd October 1640 Rachel, Countess of Bath purchases “a sable for my neck £8 10s 0d,” she is probably planning to wear it more in the style of Hollar’s 1644 depiction of a Lady in Winter clothing.
|Hollar. Winter from his Seasons, 1644|
By the time of Gregory King's Table of the Annual Consumption of Apparell in 1688, the use of the word tippet for some form of neck or shoulder covering is confirmed. King places tippets and palatines together and estimates the annual consumption of these at 50,000. The tippets could still be fur, the London Gazette in 1686 has “Lost a sable tippet with scarlet and silver strings to it” (London Gazette no. 2115/4), but not always as another listed in the Gazette as lost shows, “Left in a Hackney-Coach.., a Wainscot Tippet-Box with 2 Tippets, one Sable,..the other black Ribbond.” (London Gazette, No. 2980/4, 1694)
By the 1680s and 1690s these tippets had become highly fashionable, and could be very expensive. Another letter in the Verney Memoirs, dating to 1690, asks “I beg that I may have a tipit bought me, since every gentelwoman has one as makes any show in the world. It will cost £5” This is the high end of the market; they were being purchased for considerably less the further you go down the social scale. Mary Draper, the daughter of a Derbyshire gentleman, when living in Lichfield purchased in 1691 “for a tippet and a string 16s.” By 1702 James Osburne, a linen draper in Lincoln had in his stock “6 tippets at 12d each” and “some silk tippets and round scaves value 18s 4d”
The palatine, with which King bracketed the tippet, may have been much the same thing, sometimes being listed as a palatine tippet. Weiss has stated that term came into use at the French court when Liselotte von der Pfalz wore what she in her letters called her zibeline. Liselotte married Louis XIV’s brother Philippe d’Orléans in 1671, and wrote that at first she was ridiculed for wearing it, but it soon became fashionable, and since she was from the Palatinate, the French referred to it as a palatine. This style can be seen around the neck of the lady in the French fashion print by de St Jean, Femme de qualite en deshabille d'hyver 1694.
Other mid 17th century portraits with neck/shoulder furs
Anne Villiers (d.1654), 'Lady Dalkeith', Later Countess of Morton. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Penrhyn Castle
Elizabeth Dormer (1610 or after–1635), Marchioness of Worcester. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Powis Castle
Mary Hill (1615–1686), Lady Killigrew. After Anthony van Dyck, National Trust, Belton House