A glance at female headwear


“Januar” by Jörg Breu the Elder. (1510-15)

I’ve lately realized that when it comes to female head gears during the 16th century a lot of people today feel unsure of what women actually wore on their heads.

As a quick experiment I decided to go through my Pinterest-collection of depictions from the 16th century. This collection have a mix of women and men, high aswell as lowborn. I want to point out that the collection does have a majority of northern European depictions, and also higher percentage of depictions from the first part of the 16th century. Full picture, title and dates are found in my Pinterest-collection.

Women and hats

Lets start with the hats, shall we? Of the almost 440 depictions that include women, I found 83 depictions of women wearing hats:

hattar 1

Hattar 2

When looking at these pictures we see that the majority of the hats worn by women are fairly simple in style and does not have feathers attached or are slit:

  • 39% of the hats are adorned with feathers – majority of the women with feathers in their hats seem to either be of a noble birth or are women from the train of mercenaries. As far as I can see all feathers depicted are natural white ostrich feathers.
  • 19% of the hats are in someway slit – these hats also seem to attribute either highborn or women accompanying mercenaries. We do not see any clear depictions of hats that are slit on the crown of the hat, only on the brims.

I humbly conclude that slit and feathered hats are mainly a noble habit of adorning oneself, and that it was copied by a few more extravagant women in lower classes. It might also be that feathers are more common among prostitutes than common women in for example military trains, but this theory is simply a guess at this point.

Women and head scarfs

One thing is immediately clear when browsing through the pictures – hats are actually not the most popular look. Most women in most classes wore different variations of head scarfs or veils. Of the almost 440 depictions of women I have collected, more than 220 have only head scarf or veil, no hats. (I have not included only hairnets in this calculation).

I wont include all these 220 examples of women – they can be found in the collection. But I picked out a few examples of all these beautiful head scarfs/veils, for the joy of it:


Conclusion? The 16th century woman sure loved covering her hair. The majority used head scarfs/veils to do this – sometimes using the wulsthaube to exaggerate the profile. A smaller percentage used hats – sometimes in combination with head veil or hairnets. The hair seems to be completely or almost completely covered, as a contrast to earlier fashion. i.e braids sticking out under the head scarf during the 15th century. Different colors and materials could be used depending on social status, but a vast majority seems to be white linen.

One thought on “A glance at female headwear

  1. Pingback: Rise of the Milliner in England: A History of Mad Hatters, by Sharon Lathan | Austen Authors

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