“Kissing strings” are long (40″ on this one) tapes that extend forward from the nape gather. I keep asking what people think the use was, and here are a few of the ideas:
- wrap them back up over your head to help secure cap
- some illogical fashion trend; some marker of age
- made that way with the intention of cutting them shorter as per user’s head size
- someone else can grab them and pull the wearer close — to kiss!
I haven’t seen any visible in portraits, so we’re guessing here.
This cap, from the New Canaan Historical Society in New Canaan, Connecticut, collection, is a good example.
I argue for an 18th C date because of its common 3-piece construction: caul, headpiece, ruffle. And because it doesn’t have the characteristics of a 19th C cap. It has one little 1/16″ pintuck 1/4″ in from the edge all down the front edge of the ruffle. Oh, and ribbons that tie the lappets. I wondered how those were done. In the portrait section, see examples of both.
The cloth is fine, probably linen, and the ruffle is even finer. Many many mended areas on the headpiece tell us it was well loved & used.
The stitches are tiny, fine, even. Along the front ruffle edge, a 1/8″ hem finish; go in 1/4″, and there’s a 1/8″ pintuck. The ruffle is joined to headpiece with 2 1/16″ hems butted together. The caul joined to the (hemmed) headpiece with a whipped gather. I count 25 or more of those popcorn stitches to the inch.
The lappets are 3.5″ long, and a 6″ long, 1/4″ ribbon (now shredded), handmade from a piece of silk, ties the ends.
The group of caps in their collection were donated by Deborah Bead. We corresponded briefly, and she said she did her best to date the caps, using reference sources like Cunnington’s Dictionary of Fashion History
Questions that remain
Mended areas are always interesting, and this cap has a lot. One possibility is some conservator did them, of course; the other is someone who loved this cap wanted to keep using it. Did people wear mended caps? I can see fixing a little hole or tear, but this is a lot of visible mending. Does that mean the owner was poor? So much we can’t know.
Mrs. Pemberton wears a cap with ribbon ties. Her ruffles are gathered all the way down the lappets, whereas on CE419, the only gather is at the tip of the lappet, to get around the curve.
More like… Mary Trussler, 1760.
Her cap is almost straight down the sides, like this one. Her ruffle appears to have a little pintuck in it. 18th C portraits can have such incredible detail in them. The painting of transparent cloth is such a wonder to me
I think this was the first time I tried to do gathers around a lappet, and my effort is pretty comical. No, there aren’t supposed to be those little puffs at her cheek.
Mimicking the tiny tiny stitches made this a fun challenge. I used cotton organdy to mimic the fineness of the original cloth, and cotton mull for the ruffle.
Making a reproduction gives us a chance to TRY ON a cap and see how it would sit on a real head. It allows us to touch and question the original design. The artifact is so delicate it could not even be mounted, but now, despite my learner’s mistakes, we can try out the strings and see if they work tied up. (We thought it was possible, but not really practical.)
Notes and Pattern
Click here for notes and pattern: New Can CE 419 notes
Thank Yous and Permissions
Photos by the author. Permission to use these photos granted by NCHS 2018, via Penny Havard, Curator of Textiles. Thanks to Janet Lindstrom, who was curator at the time of my visit. Thanks to my model from the CSA.
Other Related Scholarship
New Canaan does not have an online catalog of their items.
I am not aware of any other scholarship about this item.
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