Friday, April 17, 2020

Breakfast Cap for a Bride, 1860s

I have an ongoing fascination with caps. I think they're absurd. Also, I kind of love them?

Usually my focus is on Regency caps, because the only reliable daytime event I go to these days is the tea at our annual Regency dance weekend. But every now and then I come across a later period cap, and I tuck it away. While I was working on my 1860s morning dress, I came across a particular description for a breakfast cap that seemed serendipitous:
Godey's Lady's Book, December 1861 (via)
"NOVELTIES FOR DECEMBER...Breakfast-cap for a bride (a fashion becoming more and more universal since breakfast caps are now made extremely piquant and becoming). Material spotted thulle [sic], trimmed with roses and rose de chine ribbon."

I think a combination of being newly married myself and finding spotted tulle while at the craft store for something wholly unrelated lead me to decide that I needed a breakfast cap to go with my morning dress. I ended up taking inspiration from the description above and the general shape of these two extant caps from the period.

Black net cap
black net cap, French, from the MFA Boston
1863 Godey's. "Breakfast caps. 1. ...of French muslin trimmed with violet ribbons. 2. the form of a net trimmed all round with a double row of blonde; two ribbon streamers behind. Three roses make a pretty bandeau to the front of the cap. Black or white net may be used for the purpose, and whatever colored ribbon best suits the complexion of the wearer." [jrb]
breakfast caps, from Godey's 1863
And then I made it up. I knew I needed a structure of some kind, so I ended up using black velvet ribbon to make a base shape. Then a gathered a circle of spotted tulle to the ribbon, and trimmed the hell out of it.

Ribbon base

completed cap
I did depart from the description on the colors: mine is trimmed in blue silk ribbon and purple flowers rather than roses and pink ribbon, but both the ribbons and flowers came to my stash from wedding gifts. So I feel like that doubles down a bit on the "bride"-iness of the cap and it makes me happy! 

cap, hair, and dress
In the end, I should have pinned this in a bit better. It slid back from the center of my scalp where I had intended it to sit. Also, by the time this picture was taken my loosely styled hair was falling pretty considerably. But even so, I'm really pleased with this first foray into caps! It's absurd, which is just the way I like it.


  1. Usually I'd agree with you that caps are ridiculous however in this era of you-only-see-my-face-on-the-computer, I am considering an Anne Boleyn style hood so that I never have to brush my hair again, and a nice cap design seems like it might be a happy compromise.

    1. Ha! Yes, I think we should definitely bring caps back temporarily :) They do frame the face in a way I'm sorely lacking on Zoom...