September 3, 2014

Closet Histories #1.3: Tudor Headdresses

Lets talk about one of the most recognizable accessories of the Tudor era, the headdress. Of the many various styles of headdresses, caps, hats and hair accessories that existed there are two styles that were most customary, the gable headdress and the French hood. To my knowledge no extant examples of either headdress still exist in their full form for us to study, so it is back to portraiture for us as usual.

Fig. 1                                                           Fig. 2                                                                     Fig. 3

The lovely models above are all wearing various incarnations of the the gable headdress, so names because the style resembles an architectural gable (like the ones on your house). The gable headdress consisted of a stiff box like band in a diamond shape around the face, often with jeweled trimmings, and a veil or bag-like fabric section to the back. This back section covered the hair and could be folded up (like our lady in fig.2 above) or worn loose. The stiff front portion of the gable headdress was probably stiffened with starch, buckram, resin or wire, or any combination of those materials. There are extant wire forms from the insides of these headdresses indicating they were most certainly just as stiff as they look in the portraits above.

Fig. 3 is the same portrait of our friend Elizabeth of York as featured in my last post about the infamous Tudors. She is wearing an earlier style of the gable headdress, the style got shorter over time and was eventually replaced by the popular French hood style. The two styles did exist at the same time but the Gable headdress seems to have waned in popularity over time.

Fig. 4                                                            Fig. 5                                                          Fig. 6
The other recognizably Tudor headdress is the French hood, which as it's name implies, was a style that originated in France. Our friend Anne Boleyn wears a classic example of the style in fig. 4 and was said to have preferred the French hood over the gable headdress; possibly she grew accustomed to the style during her time in France. The basic stiffened round french hood was often black and did not have to match the fabric of the wearers gown. I would assume not every lady could afford to have a headdress to match each of her gowns but perhaps the wealthiest could if they desired. The standard French hood also included a pleated gold trim on the inside rim which may be attaches to the linen coif (cap) that would have been worn underneath to cover the hair, or attached to the French hood itself.  In Fig. 6, Anne's daughter the future Elizabeth I wears a french hood that does match the fabric of her gown, and is later in style that that worn earlier in the century by her mother. You can certainly see an evolution in the style of the hood by referencing these two portraits.  

The French hood could be lavishly embellished and reinterpreted. There are portraits depicting double layered crescents, both with trims of jewels and pearls, hoods with lace, or multiple trims and fabrics all on one little hood. The French hood, like the gable headdress, was also most often paired with a veil which was almost certainly separate from the hood itself. 

Pewter wire frames for Gable and French hoods on display at the Museum of London
I found the photo above on pinterest and traced it back to a filckr account, the image is of a display at the Museum of London where they have two wire headdress frames.

         "...Several types of headdresses can be identified from surviving wire frames. Diamond shapes were fashionable in the late 1400's and early 1500's. The curved frame (French Hood) was common from the 1520's." (label accompanying the museum's display)

Fig. 7                                                             Fig. 8                                                               Fig. 9 
Other styles of head-wear from the period included English hoods, which were essentially a mash up of the two styles discussed being a more square shaped french hood (see fig. 7). Women also wore hats, here modeled by Austrian Archduchess Magdalena in a portrait from 1563. A style that would change as it grew into popularity during Elizabeth's reign was the atifet, a style of hood that dipped or came to a point in the center creating a heart-like shape (the origins of the style are here modeled by Mary Queen of Scots in fig. 11). 

Thanks to the Renaissance and Tudor costuming communities, there has been a lot of research into the styles of hoods and possible construction methods. As I am primarily an 18th century costumer (so far anyway...) I wish to point you towards a few links that I referenced for this post, but that also have a lot more information on Gable and French hoods.

-Great articles on various headdresses and other head coverings
-The Tudors Wiki, Hood and Headdresses (with great pictures of repro headdresses worn on The Tudors)
-Diagram of the shapes used to create these headdresses

All of the information for this post has been gathered from the textbook Survey of Historic Costume (5th edition) by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eurbank, from the links above or my own knowledge. I want to share the resources I come across with all of you as much as possible. The portraits used to illustrate today's post are credited to either the museum where they reside (whenever possible) or the source where I found them, and are linked via their fig. # underneath. Again I repeat my disclaimer that I am not a historian, and if you have corrections or additions for this post, please begin the discussion in comments as I would love to learn more!

Thanks for reading! 


  1. Yay! I've made two French hoods, and I definitely feel better about all the structure/materials guesswork I did, knowing that a lot of that detail is unknown. I haven't tried a gable headdress yet, they aren't necessarily as flattering a style, but they are very cool, so I hope to one day! Thanks for another thorough article!

  2. I certainly agree that the french hoods are much more attractive, they look like crowns whereas the gable, naturally, looks so boxy! I haven't tried to make either headdress before myself, but I would love to have a full Tudor ensemble someday!

  3. Excellent post, dear Bianca. I loved seeing the original wire frames (how amazing is it that they've survived this long?!) and am smitten with the abundance of pearls used in so many of these headdresses.

    ♥ Jessica


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...