Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kerchiefs 2

Going through and finding images and extants of caps was so useful to me that I decided to go through and try to accomplish that with most of the other major accessories.  Today, kerchiefs.  I'm going to try to show a variety of classes, but it is (not surprisingly) difficult to find extants of poorer quality.
First, back to the Lewis Walpole Gallery.  While there's not a huge variety of types of kerchiefs visible, you can see many different ways of wearing them.  Tucked into the front of the gown, sometimes with a bow.  Loose down the front, most likely fastened with a pin, brooch, or bow.  A few appeared to have a band of fabric tacking them down.  One below is a bit saucier, crossing with a pin mid-way and tucking into the gown, but creating a very sparse X shape, obviously doing little to encourage modesty!

We find stripes and plaids, like in Henry Singletons The Ale-House Door, c. 1790 (V&A Museum).  Hers appears to be tied or pinned down to her gown.  Here is a checked linen kerchief from CWF.

In John Collet's High Life Below Stairs, c. 1763, we can see a black, a striped, and a red-print kerchief (CWF).  When I went through VA Runaway ads, the only women's kerchiefs I saw mentioned were red silk.  Both plain and spotted red show up often in art of the lower and middling sort of this time period (such as George Morland's The Child at Nurse or George Stubb's The Haymakers)

Printed kerchiefs were also available.  A number of extants remain.  Some have hunting scenes, others game boards, and many had pastoral themes.  The woman in George Morland's The Miseries of Idleness, c. 1790, has what looks like many of the indienne prints we see sold for re-enactors today (NG).

Wikimedia Commons has a page of images of fichus, though most are of higher class women.  Here is a list of kerchiefs I found in museums:
White cotton shaped with white embroidery.
Square white cotton with white embroidery and scalloped edges.
Ruffled white cotton.
Triangular white cotton with colored embroidery.
Long rectangular white cotton with white embroidery.
Coral triangular silk with colored embroidery.
Plain white linen kerchief, another here as well.

There are dozens more out there, especially of the cotton with white embroidery.  John Styles' book The Dress of the People has many images of women with different styles of kerchiefs, unfortunately I couldn't find comparatively high-resolution images online of most of the paintings he shows.


ZipZip said...

Dear Nicole,

Thank you! This was really informative. You might also want to link to an extant example for sale at Pieces of History, at There are detailed views. The proprietress is pleasant: I've bought from her before, and she might be willing to share the photos. It's worth asking, anyway.

Very best,


Time Traveling in Costume said...

This has been very useful because kerchiefs and fichus were a mystery to me. I wasn't sure how to wear them, what types of fabric they were made of, or what would go with what. This makes it very clear. Thank you, Nicole.