This is very similar to many other Quaker caps I saw in my travels, especially a group from Chester County Historical Society, but also individual examples in other places. It’s the only squared-lappet one museums date 1750-1800, though, and I want to talk about that while I suggest it’s more probably 19th C. This one is housed at the Phildelphia History Museum. Its item number is #87.35.826. It does not have an online catalog record.
Typical of turn-of-the-century Quaker caps, this is a lappet of a superfine cloth, gauzy and see-through. But while its shape is standard, its construction has some unique features.
The headpiece and ruffle are all one piece. So is the caul and the bavolet, or ruffle around the nape. Then there is a third piece that’s really just the lappets pieced onto the rest of the cap. The shaping is created by strings in self-fabric channels in all three pieces. I’ve made a color-coded quick drawing to help you see what I’m talking about.
The strings are all running in self-fabric channels just large enough to hold the string. I think there are two strings, but there might be three. One starts at the join where the lappet, headpiece, and caul all cone together, and goes back on each side, coming out to a visible bow at the center back, 1″ from the bottom edge. The other starts from the end of one lappet, wraps and over the CF, and comes out the other lappet, to be tied under the chin. It runs up the middle of the lappet, so it makes a pretty runching when pulled.
The caul is whip gathered, then sewn on to the (rolled edged) headpiece with big loose stitches, flattening the effect. All the outside edges are whipped to finish.
The characteristic that most gives away this cap’s 19th C date is the square end of the lappets. That seems to be one detail that curators I talked to agreed was a dividing point. In other examples, the gather up the middle of the lappet is created by finishing the edges of 2 rectangles, and leaving gaps in the join where the string is threaded. Here’s an example of that technique in another Philly cap, #1000.179.
Questions that remain
I’m making a judgement call on the idea that there are only two gather strings. The one that goes up and down the front, creating the faux ruffle, might be two different strings. This cap was too fragile to manipulate much, but as it sits there is a slight pucker in the front string. Also, other Quaker caps with similar construction have sometimes a separate string, creating this false-ruffle effect. Sometimes it is just a silky thread, without even a channel, and the bow is at the CF. Kannik’s Korner pattern #6602 (view B) reproduces a cap like that.
Also, notice that the way the lappet is sewn on, it has to fold like a piece of origami under the chin. You are sewing a straight piece into a corner. Who came up with that? It’s very awkward.
I was so excited when I discovered this portrait at Williamsburg! Look! her cap looks like this one!
Two things are important here: Only a small number of portraits I’ve seen show a cap with the lappets hanging loose. Which is great to know — they did it too, and all ya’ll that complain about ties under your chin can use these rare exceptions to justify your attire.
The other great thing about the Peale portrait is that this has a solid date, 1791, which makes us feel very confident that these types of caps were being worn by wealthy people in our time period. But note the ends of her lappets are rounded.
Here’s the another example of a loose lappet. I hate to do this, but I’ve lost the identifying info on this portrait. Please, if you know anything about it, let me know.
I’ve now found four American and five British examples of loose lappets. They sometimes depict a person in an informal situation: dancing, socializing, shepherdesses, etc. Perhaps loose lappets are associated with informality?
One last one: John Greenwood’s portrait of Catherine Moffat, 1745. Her lappets are large and lacy, and lay comfortably on her shoulders.
I haven’t reproduced this one yet.
Click here for notes and pattern: Philly 87.35.826
Thank Yous and Permissions
Kristen Froehlich, Director of the Collection and Exhibits at the Philadelphia history Museum at the Atwater Kent gave me permission to use images I made and discuss this artifact here.
Photos by the author.
Other Related Scholarship
I am not aware of any other scholarship on this cap.
Version 4. added loose lappets info. crop and Identify that portrait; alt ref on 2 new pics.