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Blackwork nightcap

Silk and linen blackwork nightcap, English, 1600–20

Silk and linen blackwork nightcap, English, 1600–20

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Traditionally plain linen nightcaps were worn in bed at night. However, at the end of the 16th and into the early 17th century embroidered nightcaps became popular. Their name of these embellished caps is a misnomer as these nightcaps were not worn in bed, but were a type of informal undress wear known as deshabille (undress), a relaxed dress style worn at home.

This nightcap, of which only two panels survive, is embroidered with a blackwork design that features a carnation at the apex of the conical panels that form the peak of the crown. Below that enclosed within coiling stems is a five-petal eglantine rose and honeysuckle and at the bottom is borage. As well as being decorated with floral motifs nightcaps could also be scented with flowers and herbs. William Turner, A Newe Herball, 1551, ‘judge[s] that the flowers of the Lavender ‘quilted in a cap and dayly worne are good for all diseases of the head that do come of a cold cause and they comfort the braine very well’.

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