The “Corsage” in the Ruffle: Smiths 6608-D

first draft 1.13.19

The ruffles of most lappets are barely gathered except for the turn at the point of the lappet.  But some also have a tuft of tight gathers at the Center Front (CF), like a corsage of little flowers on top of your head.  Smithsonian 6608-D has that extra flair.

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithonian’s National Museum of American History*, a part of the Copp Collection. The museum date is 1775-1799. The record for this item is not online.

The Original

Heavy linen cloth gives this cap a unique feel and weight. 

The structure is the same as most 18th C lappets: caul, headpiece, ruffle.

This ruffle goes all the way around the back, so when the gather around the bottom of the caul is pulled to fit, it creates a ruffle at the nape of the neck.  The gather string comes out of a buttonhole inside.

The outer edge of the ruffle is hemmed 1/8″; the inner edge alternates between a rolled gather where needed and a minute whip.  The headpiece is hemmed 1/8″ all around, and joined to the ruffle with a whip stitch. The caul is sewn the same: hem, rolled gather, whipped to the headpiece.  The whole work is as neat and tidy as… an 18th c cap.

I love seeing the human element in an artifact.  This cap is nearly perfect, but the hem around the lappet gave the seamstress some trouble. There’s the edge awkwardly folded, a little bunchy on the turn.  Part of that has to be the heaviness of the cloth.  Getting around the lappet has often left me cursing, too.

The short ties under the chin are 1/8″ tapes, probably linen, sewn on to the hem of the headpiece for strength.

inside of 18th C cap from smithsonian showing stitches and construction
Inside we can see the exact and regular hem, the perfect popcorn of the rolled gather. Smiths 6608-D
inside of lappet shows awkward folding at turn.
I’m so glad to see she had trouble turning that lappet tip, too. They drive me to distraction.
detail of gather at lappet tip.
But the outside is just perfect. I often have trouble getting the amount of gather just right so it lays. This is the ideal.

 

Questions that remain

I wonder if the weight of this cloth means it had a specific use?  Heavier for night time? For winter?  I’ve only seen this weight of cloth a handful of times.  The hood-like cap from the Philadelphia museum is one.

Also, can I call that nape ruffle a bavolet?

 

 

 

Portraits

Abigail’s cap is a lot like this one.  It has a ruffle that goes all the way around her neck,

Abigail wears a cap like this one, with a nape ruffle and that extra little pouf at the top. Mrs. John Edwards (Abigail Fowle) about 1750–60 Joseph Badger (American, 1708–1765) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

and that extra little fancy bit at the top of her head.  Her ruffle appears to several layers, doubled at least, possibly tripled, which really makes me wonder how it is made.  She has tied her cap with a pretty bow matching her gown. There might be a white ribbon over the headpiece, too.

This corsage effect I’ve seen mostly in mid-century portraits, 1750-1770.  The museum date of the last quarter would be a little late, then?

 

The Reproduction

No repro yet.

My Notes

Click here for notes: smiths 6608 d notes

Thank Yous and Permissions

Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal.  I can only hope I found what there was to find!

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship about this cap.

*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.

 

 

 

 

Sisters: Two Lappets Side-by-side

First draft jan 2019.

I took a little break because Christmas, and because I have blogged all the caps I have reproduced.  After this, I will go on to describe other caps I’ve seen, but I haven’t sewn these yet.  I’ll add repro notes, if I sew them, later.

two 18th C caps side-by-side from the smithsonian
Smithsonian 6608-A and 6608-B are similarly constucted. 6608-A is dated 1775-1799; 6608-B is dated 1790-1810.

These two caps, from the Smithsonian, # 6608-A and # 6700-B, looked so similar to me that I have always thought of them as sisters.  They were accessioned close together, too, part of the Copp Collection.  Maybe they were acquired side-by-side by the original collector, big sister, little sister, from the same family?

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.* The record for these items are not online.

The Originals

Both of these caps are constructed in the typical three-piece pattern of an 18th C lappet.  a semicircular caul, gathered at the base with a string and at the CF with whipped gathers; a skinny headpiece with lappets; and a ruffle, gathered at the point of the lappet. These ruffles go all the way around the cap, across the nape of the neck, and back up the other side. 6608-A has an added 1/4″ lace that stops 3 3/4 ” behind the lappet. Reinforcements at the tips stabilize linen tape, 3-4″ long, to tie them on.

Now for the little differences.  6608-A, Big Sister, is larger overall.  The caul is 8″ on a side, by 7 1/4″ tall.  The headpiece is 1 7/8 ‘ at the tip, and 10 1/2″ from CF to tip. The ruffle is 1″ wide all around.  This one has the lace. The museum date is 1775-1799. It is very fine mull. The stitches are super fine: the join of the ruffle and the headpiece are two minutely hemmed pieces butted together, and the finished seam is 1/16″ across. That kind of precision boggles my mind.

Smithsonian 6608-A is larger, and has a small lace edging.
Rolled gathers create the fullness of the top of the caul on Smithsonian 6608-A.
Tapes stabilized by reinforcements tie under the chin. Smiths 6608-A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Sister, 6700-B, is smaller overall.  The caul here is 6 1/2″ on a side, and 6 1/2″ tall.  The headpiece is 1 1/4″ wide, and 10″ tip to CF.  The ruffle starts out at 1 1/4″ at the CF, and is down to 7/8″ by the time it gets to the nape.  I’ve seen this in other caps, and I can’t tell if it’s imprecision or a deliberate choice.  Little Sister isn’t quite as good a seamstress; her stitches aren’t quite as fine. Her ruffle is gathered, just a little, all down the front. The headpiece is hemmed all around 1/8″, and the front of the ruffle finishes in a 1/4 hem. The cloth is a loose weave  The string ties come out at the back, whereas as Big Sister’s come out at the  front point of connection between caul and headpiece. No lace for you, Little Sister. Maybe when you are older, and your stitches are as fine as your sibling.  Museum date: 1790-1810.

Rolled gathers make the pouf in the caul. Smiths 3700-B.
Loosely-woven cloth and large edge hems argue for a later date.
Smithsonian 6700-B is smaller than 6608-A, although the pattern pieces are all the same shape. 

Questions that remain

I wish I could ask the curator what made them give the differing dates. I would account for the difference in dating from the larger hems and looser weave of Little Sister’s cap, if I had to give reasons. I wonder if other people have ideas about this?

Portraits

 

18th c portrait with lappet cap.
Mrs. Richard Galloway, by John Hesselius (1728–1778), 1764. Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mrs. Galloway wears a cap with lappets and little or no gathers around her face, tied with string under her chin.  Is her ruffle doubled?  You can just make out a wide white ribbon, but no bows or furls.  See how you can see her ear?

My Notes

Click here for notes for 6608-A: smiths 6608 a notes

Click here for notes for 6700-B: smiths 6700 b notes

 

Thank Yous and Permissions

Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal.  I can only hope I found what there was to find!

Photos by the author.

Other Related Scholarship

I am not aware of any other scholarship on these caps.

*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.

 

 

 

 

Rare Round-Eared Cap: Smiths 6608

[Draft 1: .  Sent to Nancy Davis 6.20.18. for comment. (she retired; forwarded to Bill Yeingst, chair of the division of Home and Community Life, at yeingstw@si.edu)]

Of the 100+ caps I’ve seen, only two are true “round-eared” caps.  They are both from the Smithsonian collection, and from the same collection, the Copp Collection.  They are cut out differently from one another.  This one, Smiths 6608, has a rounded, pointed headpiece, and the ruffle curls around to meet it.  The other, Smiths 6608B, has a straight headpiece.

The cap is housed in the textiles collection of the National Museum of American History.* The record for this item is not online.

The Original

The shiny, fine soft cloth of this cap is probably linen. The incredibly minute stitches are are not unusual in 18th C caps: I counted 20 stitches to the inch.  Each edge  is finished with a whip stitch, then the edges are butted together with another whip stitch. Together, the finished join is 1/16″ across! While not every cap was expertly made, most exhibit these  precise, small, nearly perfect stitches.  Every time I think, “I can do this now, look at those tiny stitches!” I see another example like this of period perfection, and despair.

There are 3 pieces:

  • half-circle shaped caul with a gather tape that comes out of a split in the casing, CB.
  • 2 1/4″ wide headpiece that rounds back to a point under the ear (thus the term, “round-eared cap,” I suppose.)
  • 1 1/2″ ruffle, gathered only enough to get comfortably around that curve. The ruffle is whipped to the headpiece, but the front has a 1/8″ hem.

The museum dates this 1780-1800, partly because the Copp family artifacts include that era.  As with many older collections, the curator who dated this item is no longer at the museum to ask what prompted the dates given.  Nothing about it argues for a later date, and it looks like many caps seen in portraits of the period, so I accept this possibility.

Questions that remain

What don’t I understand?  This cap is small, only 7 1/4″ high, which, once again, makes me wonder if the average 18th C head was smaller. In portraits, many round-eared caps are worn high on the head, with hair piled up inside, so maybe it isn’t intended to cover much ? Or were many extant caps  actually made for younger women? We can’t tell a small adult cap from one made for a teenager.

And I always wonder why THIS cap made it through time for me to touch. Is this the souvenir saved from a child who died? Is this the failed cap that no one liked, so it sat unused? (I can hear the adolescent whine, “But, Ma, no one wears a cap like that anymore!”) Made at school for practice?  Made by Grandma right before she passed away? Made by someone rich enough to have extra caps she didn’t need, found years later in some cupboard?

Round-eared caps are nearly as common in my sample of American period portraits as lappets.  So why do we only have 2 examples?  Did more of them get worn out? Perhaps because they tended to be worn by younger women?  Or did I miss a trove of them when I couldn’t get to the Cooper-Hewitt?

Portraits

This portrait

portrait of the Gordon Family by Henry Benbridge, 1862. Mrs. Gordon wears a round-eared cap.
Mrs. Gordon is wearing a round-eared cap with not much gathering, similar to Smiths 6608.

of the Gordon Family shows Mrs. Gordon in a cap similar to this one.  Most round-eared caps on portraits have a lot of gathers all around the cap, but here is one that seems less so.  The date is 1763. The oldest daughter is wearing a cap like this, too, set very high on her head, so maybe the idea of small caps set high is accurate.

 

 

 

The Reproduction

 

IMG_20160527_182648550
Saines repro of 6608.

 

I used the finest linen I had, but it isn’t as fine as the original.  I didn’t manage to get my stitches as fine, either, especially the whipped edges.  The thickness of the cloth does make tiny stitches harder.  When I sew 20 stitches to the inch on a whipped edge, it often comes out stretched and tight like a dinosaur’s back.

Otherwise, I got the shape and proportions right.

 

My Notes :

smiths 6608 round notes and pattern

 

 

Thank Yous

Nancy Davis, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, helped me to identify items in that collection that were useful to this study. That was no small feat, as records were spread across several legacy cataloging systems, and details were minimal.  I can only hope I found what there was to find!

Other Related Scholarship

I don’t know of any other scholarship concerning this cap.[

*. . . which is not the same thing as the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt, in NYC. Their textiles section was under construction at the time of this study, so I didn’t get to see their artifacts.