Thursday 14 July 2022

Some thoughts on hoods in 1640s England


I’ve written about hoods before. Most female re-enactors, certainly in England, when presenting the 1640s wear a coif, but hoods were also being worn. To be fair hoods were around for all of the first half of the century, but they start becoming more fashionable, more mainstream, in the late 1630s. William Dobson painted his wife Judith, probably around 1637-40, wearing a hood. t

Judith Dobson by William Dobson. Tate Gallery. CC-BY-NC-ND

 The Howard of Naworth household is obtaining coifs for my Lady in the 1610s and 1620s, and are also buying hoods in the 1620s and 1630s. The Seymour family (Marquess of Hertford) in 1641,and 1642, do not buy any coifs, but they do buy seven hoods, and Rachel, Countess of Bath, in her 1639-54 accounts, has no coifs but many, many hoods. These are all upper class; the question is when did hoods reach down the social scale. The account book of Giles Moore, rector of a Sussex parish, shows purchases for his niece, who came to live in the household when she was about 12 years old in 1667. After an initial purchase of coifs, all the headwear bought for her were hoods, indicating that by that date hoods had become normal provincial middle class wear.

In Hollar’s Ornatus of 1640 there are plates of 26 English women, mostly from the gentry and nobility, and some merchant’s wives. Thirteen of the women are bare headed, one wears a veil, five wear various styles of coifs, a further three wear coifs under hats, two a hat without a coif under, and finally two wear hoods.

The Douce Portfolio set of Cries of London from about 1655 has eleven women, ten of whom wear hats with some form of coif underneath, the detail is difficult to discern, however at least one woman, hot codlings, is wearing a hood.

By the 1680s and Laroon’s Cries and Hawkers of London we have 17 women wearing a hood with a hat over it, and five wearing just a hood on its own, some are worn untied. Only three of the women are wearing coifs, all of the turn back front style and all with a hat over, and one woman wears a very out of date head wrap.

A hood, of very fine fabric and dated to around 1640, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum New York. It is perhaps a half way between the early hoods that survive and the later hoods that appear in paintings, but for which we do not seem to have survivals. As can be seen from the back view, it looks as though the gather that was at the top of the head in coifs, has moved to the back of the head.

Hood. c.1640. Metropolitan Museum, New York. Public Domain


Lots of coifs survive from the first half of the 17th century, because they were heavily embroidered, and were retained for their embroidery. Hoods were rarely embroidered, certain in their later form, though the V&A has three from between 1600-1630. These three, unlike later examples, were not designed to be tied under the chin.

1600-1625 Linen, embroidered with black silk in a design of scrolls and flowers, with linen bobbin lace trimming

1600-1630 Linen, embroidered with black silk in a design of scrolls and flowers, with linen bobbin lace trimming.

1610-1620 Linen with a linen bobbin lace edging and insertions.

A fourth example in the V&A they describe as a coif, because the structure of the top is that of a coif, however the sides extend down like a hood. It is considered to be earlier, 1550-1600, and is of linen with needle lace insertions and edging.

There is a rare English portrait of a woman wearing what might be one of these earlier hoods, though since we can’t see the back it may just be a veil.  It is of Mary Hawtrey, Lady Wolley (1587-1638) by someone in the circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (1561-1636)

A back view of a hood in a 1640 Hollar engraving of an Englishwoman in winter clothes shows the gathers at the back looking horizontal rather than drawn into a circle. It is impossible to tell if this is on a drawstring, or if the gathers have been placed on a band

Detail from Hollar's Noble woman in winter clothing. 1640


One of Hollar’s women’s heads in circles, again from the 1640s, shows a front view, and like many she seems to have created a roll of fabric at the front of the hood.


Hollar. Woman's head in a circle

Hoods seem to come in white or black. Black appears to be mainly for outdoor wear, while white appears to be more for indoor wear, though this is not necessarily always the case. In Ter Borch’s  The Letter of c. 1660 a woman is wearing a black hood over a white hood indoors.

At the top end of the market these hoods were made of gauze, ducape, love, alamode, lutestring, sarsenet, tiffany and taffeta, all types of silks. In the 1650s they seem to have cost around 5 shillings. Hoods were also made of cloth, serge, camlet and calico, the earliest mention of a calico hood I have found is 1657. By 1680 cheap calico hoods were selling for 2d each.