Monday, 3 January 2011

Those cute little heart shaped coifs, what do you call them, oh attifets?

A good place to start is their proper name, which would just be a coif. So far as I can tell, at least. I have not found any documentation to show that this style of coif was actually called an attifet during the period it was worn. Some people just call it the ‘Mary Stuart’ coif or the “Mary Queen of Scots” coif, which I love even more. I have heard it said, and read, that the only person who wore this style of coif was Mary Stuart, and of course that simply is not true. There are portraits out there that show this coif on women other than the ill-fated Mary Stuart.

Whatever you choose to call it, the coif is very cute, and looks nice, when made properly.

One of my favourite brasses is this one. It shows nice brims, and you can clearly see the gathered back portion of the coif. I cannot say for certain whether or not it is constructed by the method that I chose for this particular version that I made, but I do feel that it is close.

I have been trying to make an example of this style coif for several years. So far, my attempts have not matched my expectations. I have tried making the coif with the method that calls for a separate wired brim that has a caul gathered onto the back. The pattern for this came from "The Tudor Tailor". This is a side view of a draft that I was working on for Arilyn’s Kentwell outfit in 2008, and this is a view from the back. Unfortunately, I do not have any good pictures of the final coif, but it turned out about just like this one. The coif suffered a rather unfortunate end when the little girl's father picked up the coif with the white laundry and threw it into the wash.

I think that I am moving into the camp that believes that they were made of one piece of linen that has a wired brim. It is just making sense to me that the coifs could be drawn up, much like we now realize that the flat coifs were tightened, by using a drawstring. The flat coifs employ a particularly long drawstring, as has been evidenced by extant examples that still had theirs intact. The prevailing belief, based on portraiture, sculpture and brasses, is that the drawstring was pulled tight beneath the base of the hairstyle, and then pulled up over the top of the head, crossed just in front of the braid, and then pulled back down and tied beneath the gathered portion of the bottom edge of the coif. This gives you a very snug and well fitting head covering, that is practical and attractive.

The following photos were taken today of the coif that I made over the holidays. Truly Carmichael, proprietor of Truly Hats (, has been working on a design that she arrived at after much study and research into this form of headwear. She and I compared notes, and both of us feel that this is definitely one way that this style of coif could have been made. I am not nearly clever enough to come up with a pattern like this all on my own, and was thrilled that she had already done all of the hard work! She graciously copied one of her patterns for me, and this is my first go at making one for myself. It is of a fine linen with a wired brim. I sewed a casing along the underside (for the drawstring), and worked a bit of twill tape through to gather it up with. The hem is all hand worked, and the wire was inserted as I stitched the hem along the front brim edge. I then went back and stitched on the cotton lace.

Of great importance is the underlying hairstyle. Truly believes that the hair, braided up on the back of the head, is what gives the distinctive look that we see in many of the paintings of the period. I am very fond of the method for dressing the hair as demonstrated by Ninya Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm Davies in “The Tudor Tailor”. A good website that shows a woman actually putting up her hair in this method can be found here. In these photos, I have my hair up in the back, and then grabbed a fake braid from my Courtesan costume box and added that as well. As you can tell from the rear photo, the additional braid was slipping down into a bit of a lumpy mess, but that was because it was too long and heavy for the bobby pins that I was using. I have a hairpiece that is already braided and ready to go for this hairstyle, but of course I could not find it when I was grabbing my coif and the camera. I realize I should have put my hair up in rats on the front, but I could not find but one of them and that would have looked totally silly.

I am going to re-make this, and will add a bit of extra fullness at the front, as well as a bit on the sides. We shall see how it comes along, and I will post my progress here.

Here are the pics.



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