We’re going along swimmingly across the 18th C, with familiar cap shapes: lappets, round-eared caps, laces and ruffles, linen on linen. Familiar construction, familiar materials, and then, 1775, this happens:
What’s so different here? For one, the headpiece is split, or at least shaped like wings. This is something new. It is decorated with not just a ruffle or lace, but poufs of ribbon, a large, wide, white, striped ribbon tied in a loopy bow, and another row of gathered lace where the caul and headpiece meet. The caul is much larger than it has been, and held back and high up with, one assumes, her hair. Her neat ‘do is visible in the triangle between the cap’s wings.
This is one style that has its own name: the Dormeuse, from the French word for night cap. (Cumming and Cunnington, Dictionary of Fashion History, 2010, p. 68.)
Mr. and Mrs. Izard are colonials touring Europe at the time this portrait is painted, but it quickly comes across the water, and the cap continues to grow larger.
This woman’s cap, abut 1775, has the characteristic high point at the center front, and very large, baggy caul. Something is tied at the side back, leaving loose ends flowing behind. The ruffle is pleated lace. We’ve gone from an enlarged but still neat and fitted caul to a roomy, baggy, rumpled look.
And it doesn’t end there. Time passes, and the Piles just get higher. Kimberly Reynolds, 1788, has even more layers of wide lace falling loosely from her tall cap, and a big white ribbon on the crown of it all. It really looks like she just took all her best lace, arranged them on her head, and pinned them down.
And still it keeps growing. The next year, 1789, Mrs. Salisbury sports this incredibly impractical version:
All the same pieces are there: the pointed headpiece, layers of ruffles, the huge caul, the big white silk bow. There’s no way she could move about with that thing on her head! It must be pinned into her hair at a dozen different spots.
I would like to find more 1775-1783 portraits to see the whole range of styles here. Help me if you can! This is the evidence I am using when I say I don’t think Rev War reenactors portraying campfollowers should indulge in this fashion: as worn in the period, it is high fashion, requires dressed hair, and is too unwieldy for working.
A related style that comes along a little later is the Corday, named after Charlotte Corday, depicted in such a cap as she awaited her execution for her role in the French Revolution. The distinguishing characteristics of the Corday are 1) the ruffle gets wider and wider as it falls from the CF point, so it is widest at the nape (while the headpiece itself is fitted) and 2) the caul is poufed up like a chef’s hat.
These have a neater look than the Dormeuse, starched and regular rather than soft and layered. These, too, reach crazy heights.
And then there are some odd items that I don’t even know how to categorize, like Hanna Bush: I can see that the double ruffles come out
pleated on either side of a headpiece, with a wide lace bow around it. The whiffs to the right might be feathers, or a suggestion of further pleats. The caul is hidden, so we can’t discern its shape. A square piece of lace-edged cloth hangs down behind like a backwards apron. She has the same style echoed in her body linen: smaller pleats on the edge of her gown and really big starched pleats standing up from her bosom under her neckerchief.
There is only one: described over here, from the DAR Museum.
Which makes no sense. Portraits attest that these were all the rage from 1775 ish to 1800. The whole last quarter of the century was full of them. So there should be more of these than other, older styles, right? Or at least as many? Or more than one? Why don’t we have any extant mushrooms to examine?
One thought I’ve considered is that there was so much cloth in one of these that as soon as the style passed, they were dismantled for the pieces and remade. Fluffy caps come back in the 19th C. Maybe those deep lace ruffles that curtain their faces are made from grandmother’s cap pieces. What do you think?
2 thoughts on “Those Mushrooms: The Dormeuse and the Corday, and the Mystery of the Missing Caps.”