“I have made myself two or three caps to wear in the evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hair-dressing!”
Jane Austen, 1798
Ladies’ Regency Caps, by Laura Boyle
Caps have been worn by men and women from before time was recorded. By the Regency, however, they had become feminine attire. Caps were worn by all classes of women for many different reasons. Widows and mothers wore caps. Some married women chose to wear them. Housekeepers and servants wore them. Children wore them. Old maids wore them. The only ones who didn’t were young ladies, during that period of time when they were no longer children, and not yet old maids (or as Caroline Austen put it, “ladies who were not quite young”), though Jane Asuten took to wearing them at the age of twenty-three.
Worn mostly indoors, the cap was also often placed under a bonnet or hat for added warmth and comfort. They were not usually worn on formal occasions during the Regency. Sleeping caps were necessary to preserve the bed linens from the many oils and greases used in women’s hair at the time.
Most caps were made in light colors and fabrics like lace, muslin or lawn, though a widow might wear a cap made of or trimmed in black. With time, caps became as lavishly trimmed as any other creation of the time. By the Victorian era, caps became smaller, and while still worn, they were often no more than a token band or lacey doily on top of the head. Soon they disappeared from fashion altogether only to be later reintroduced as menswear (think deestalkers and baseball caps). Some of the more popular cap types during the Regency were:
Made familiar by Betsy Ross and Martha Washington, the mobcap was still worn during the early 19th century, though it was not as popular (or large!) as it had been a generation earlier. Mobcaps were usually trimmed with ruffles or lace and ribbon.