The Mob Cap, synonymous with the early American “founding mothers” Martha Washington and Betsy Ross, was actually a fashionable accessory worn by many women throughout the Georgian Era. Named for it’s association with the French “mobs” of that Revolution, it could be as exquisite or serviceable as the the wearer could afford or require.
Jane Austen, herself, was fond of caps and wrote to her sister,
“I have made myself two or three caps to wear of evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing which at present gives me no trouble beyond washing and brushing, for my long hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my short hair curls well enough to want no papering.”
So, how do we make a mob cap?
To make your own cap, here’s a video by ‘Modesty Matters’. It’s simple without embellishment but is a great starting point. Have fun.
Imagine attending a performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and you discover the object of your affection is sitting in a box to your right. You have no desire to make a spectacle of yourself by leaning out of your box to see who they are with, so you take out what appears to be a straight-barrel spyglass and point it at the stage. While it looks as if you are focusing your attention on the performance, the ingenious spyglass you are holding is allowing you to watch the people in the box to your right. Now you can stare to your heart’s content and no one will be the wiser.
While researching a pair of antique opera glasses this past week, I stumbled across a fun accessory I’d never heard of known as the “jealousy glass.” It looks like a single barrel opera or field-glass, but it actually contains an oblique lens and side aperture that allows the user to discretely see what is happening to their left or right.
The jealousy glass, also known as a polemoscope, was invented by the German-Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1637. Hevelius believed his invention could have military uses, but the viewing angle was found to be too narrow. During the 18th century, the general population began using the polemoscope to spy on other people.
From Mamma– A Mariner’s compass
From Aunt– A silver Vinagrette
From Augusta– A gold twisted ring
From Miss Ramsey– A leather purse
Emma Austen Leigh, 1815
During the Regency, friends would exchange small gifts at Christmas or Twelfth Night. These tended to be useful items or homemade tokens of remembrance. They might be accompanied by a riddle or short poem, like the needle bag Jane gave to a friend in 1792:
This little bag, I hope, will prove
To be not vainly made;
For should you thread and needles want,
It will afford you aid.
And, as we are about to part, ‘Twill serve another end: For, when you look upon this bag, You’ll recollect your friend.
Jane’s neice, Emma Austen Leigh, kept a diary list of all the gifts she was given over a period of years. It included jewelry, purses, knitting boxes and workbags along with a selection of fashionable accessories and mending tools.
The chatelaine is a device which clips to the waist band or belt of a dress for holding such items as the mistress of the house would need with her throughout the day. It might include her seal, watch, scissors, thimble, a vinaigrette, and a key holder.
Chatelaines were worn by men and women and might be made of silver or steel. They could be as plain or as decorated as the owner wished. The term originally meant the mistress of a large estate or Castle and literally means “the keeper of the keys.”
A vinaigrette is a little tightly sealing box with a second pierced lid inside to contain a bit of gauze soaked in vinegar, lavender water, or other scent. Sniffing the contents were meant to revive someone feeling faint or give relief from unpleasant odors. It might be kept inside a reticule or be equipped with a loop and hung about the wearer’s wrist or from a chatelaine. Vinaigrettes were made by silversmiths specializing in boxes so they usually also made snuffboxes. There were smiths in London who did this type of work, but most boxes were made in Birmingham.