Selecting a Winter Hood for Your Mid-19th Century Impression

Some time in the depths of the night, I awoke to the sound of ice hitting my window. I sighed, thought “winter is coming,” rolled over, and fell back asleep.

With winter coming, many are thinking about how to keep warm in their nineteenth century attire, including how to keep their head warm.

The great news is there were several styles of winter hoods worn in the nineteenth century.

The challenging news is there were several styles of winter hoods worn in the nineteenth century.

With the many styles available, how do you pick the one right for your impression or interpretation?

I have this ongoing love (obsession) with sewn winter hoods. I am fascinated by how each is put together, what
the commonalities are, what the uniquenesses are, and which suits which situations best.

This overview looks at sewn winter hoods focusing on the mid-19th century. It does not include the many knit
styles that were made.

Let’s start with some basics.

Sewn winter hoods generally fall into two catagories: quilted and wadded, with some draped hoods which do not have interior guts. Winter hoods were most frequently made with a silk exterior and a silk or cotton interior. They could also be made from wool. The breakdown lands somewhere around ⅔ silk with ⅓ wool. The silk used is most frequently a tight weave taffeta, with the occasional fraille or tight jacquard weave. The tight weave and smooth texture is important for resisting water. Think about how an umbrella resists water. If rain or wet snow fall onto a silk hood, you want the moisture to roll off. If dry, fluffy snow falls onto a silk hood, you want it to slide off. The same principle applies. Similarly, when wool is used, it too needs to be a tight, smooth weave. A tight weave will minimize absorption. A smooth weave will encourage snow to slide off. A fuzzy wool will act almost like velcro, grabbing and holding onto snow. In terms of weight, the vast majority of original wool hoods I’ve examined have been light weight with some slightly medium weight wools.

Turning to the interior, silk and cotton are commonly found. Silk is often a solid color, either a taffeta or tissue taffeta. Cottons is more often a polished cotton in a solid color or a sateen, with the occasional smaller print. Often, the interiors include multiple fabrics of the same fiber. The color selection can be a dark neutral, black or brown, or a bright, vivid color such as pink or yellow.

Pink silk interior of a quilted winter hood.

Now, let’s talk situations and styles.
I break this down environmentally.

If you are doing an event that is likely to be windy and/or stormy, you will want a hood that can protect your face. For this situation, I recommend a hood that comes forward, protecting the face. A lappet style hood is a good choice for this. The brim extends forward of the face with the lappets hanging below. This was the style I had on when a sudden heavy, icey burst of rain hit. I found while walking through the village, my face was fully protected and dry. A capote style hood, one with minimal structure and a deep brim, would work well for a stormy situation as well.

Lappet style winter hood in silk.

If you are doing an event that will be very cold, while you need to be active, you will want a warm hood that stays in place while giving you a good line of sight. For this, I recommend a wadded hood. A wadded hood is likely the warmest of the hoods as it is filled full with wool wadding or down. A well fit wadded hood will snug the head, keeping out drafts, and stay put while you actively work. The edge of the brim frames the face giving you full range of peripheral vision, which is important for working with livestock or visitors.

Wadded winter hood in plaid silk

If you are doing an event where visitors need to see your face while giving you protection from the cold weather, I recommend a quilted hood with a brim that can be turned back or is shaped with wire. This style hood can be made with lighter or cotton batting for subtle warmth or with heavier or wool batting for more warmth. A channel can be added to the inside of brim so the hood can be drawn in to hold in place if it is windy or the interpretation role is an active one.

Quilted winter hood in black silk. Note bonnet shape.

While some winter hoods are trimmed, the majority of the everyday/common hoods I have studied are not trimmed. Simple trims can include ruched ribbon or pinked silk along the brim edge or simple bows on the crown or along the center top of the brim.

Published in: on November 1, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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