My 1740s “Mutton Chop” Cap

The Athenaeum – Lettice Mary Banks (William Hoare – ) English 1746

It’s getting down to the wire on Costume College preparations. Most of my major projects are a few steps from wearable (gown needs a hem; jacket needs sleeves set), but we costumers know that “wearable” doesn’t mean “complete.”

To complete the outfits, one needs all the appropriate accessories. Since I’m teaching both an “18th Century Undress” and an “18th Century Accessories” class this year, I need to actually have those accessories!

While I do have a collection of neckerchiefs, aprons, bows, caps, etc., my focus has been primarily on the 1770s-90s and those items I have won’t quite work for the 1740s and 1750s I’m wearing this year. So it’s new caps, aprons, and kerchiefs for me. Luckily none of these things is difficult or too time consuming to make.

The first of this millinery accomplished is one of the common styles of 1740s cap, the variety that ties under the chin. In my research, it appears that this style of cap was primarily worn at-home, or as undress. The majority of portraits show the cap without additional headgear, but one or two show the cap being worn with a bergere hat, outside.

mrs john waddell wollaston
Mrs Iremonger of Wherwell Priory by Joseph Highmore, c.1745
1745 September – Thomas Burford (British artist, 1710-1770)
Philippe Mercier (1689 –1760) – Margaret ‘Peg’ Woffington (1714?–1760), 1740s – worn under a hat here, and the lady with gloves. This would seem she is going out.
The Athenaeum – George Rogers and His Wife Margaret and His Sister Margaret Rogers (Francis Hayman – ) English c 1750 – the lady on the right is holding a hat and the middle gal is wearing a hat. The whole scene is one of those weird pastoral family portraits. Still, that the blue lady holds a hat would indicate she might put it on over her mutton chop cap…?

As one Facebook follower put it – this type of cap was the yoga pants of the 1740s.

Ladies of all ages and rank wore this cap, some of them finer than others (the ladies and the caps). Some were decorated with lace, others with ruffles in the same fabric, which looks to be more opaque than the finer gauze (organza) caps associated with more formal clothing.

Detail from a portrait of Theresa Concordia Mengs by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1745
Anne Bayne (d.1743), Wife of the Artist Allan Ramsay

I didn’t originally plan to make the mutton chop cap, but I needed some middling class undress headgear for my OL ensemble, and I just couldn’t resist the silliness of the style.

My cap is made of cotton voile from Dharma Trading Company. I did not wash the voile prior to sewing, so it retained the factory sizing, which gave it a bit of body and made it easier to work with.

The cap is made in three parts – the crown/caul (puffy part at back), the front piece (draped over the top of the head and down over the ears), and the ruffle. Additional components are the ties at the bottom of the crown/caul, and the ribbon ties under the chin.

Killerton Fashion Collection © National Trust / Sophia Farley and Renée Harvey – This is noted as a child’s cap, but the construction and style is the same. c. 1730 – 50

Now, I fully intended to sew this by machine (gasp! the horror!) because I’m way short on time, but I wanted to do the roll hem on the ruffle by hand. Abby Cox once told me that the closer something is to the face, the finer it should be, in both fabric and stitching. Luckily, cotton voile cut on the straight rolls really nicely, and I used the threads from the voile itself to very finely stitch the rolled hem.

Roll hemmed ruffle edge using a single strand of the voile thread. I used a 2:1 ruffle ratio, but many of the caps in the portraits look like they use less, maybe 1.5:1

Following that, I roll-gathered the opposite edge of the ruffle, but then realize that you can’t machine sew a roll gathered edge to the front piece of the cap and have it look anywhere near decent, so I roll-hemmed the edge of the front piece, then whipped the ruffle to it, which looked fabulous.

The interior showing the roll-gathered ruffle whipped to the front piece.

At that point all that was left was to attach the crown/caul to the back of the front piece, and why bother doing it by machine on that curve, so…. yup, by hand. I made the tiny channel at the base, did a couple quick, small eyelets at the center, then gathered the caul and stitched it to the rest of the cap with a french seam. I’m glad I did it by hand, because it would have been tricky by machine.

Tiny ties at the back

Then it was done. Whoa! I made the entire thing by hand and it took about 4-5 hours total. Just like so many other things in the 18th century, this was really straightforward to put together, and actually much easier to do by hand than on the machine.

I don’t usually go for ruffles and shit but I really quite like this thing

And look at this silliness! I’m SO glad I made it!

I just can’t even.
Next time I will refine the shape of the lapetty part to curve and narrow more like the original cap shown above.


  • Caroline

    July 16, 2016 at 4:38 PM

    Cute! I love that you love the silliness of this. It makes me think of them in a whole new light. I have one of the early 19th century styles like this to go with my Robe de Madras dress, because it was in the fashion plate, but I have always hated it. I might have to bring it out now and look at it again and try to love it 🙂 Beautiful work, btw! Isn't it funny how sometimes by hand is easier than by machine. Cheers!

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 18, 2016 at 9:46 PM

      It seems like very little adjustments can make a cap fabulous or fail. We often make our ruffles too big and they overpower the face. Sometimes the width or the height doesn't work proportionally. Caps are a little trickier than it would seem! I feel like this one needs the lapets shortening just a bit…next time 🙂

  • Unknown

    July 17, 2016 at 3:00 PM

    The hand-stitched ruffle around the face is gorgeous! I think I would cry if I had to wear this all the time, though. In the summer…oy…hot, hot, hot! I like the wind in my hair lol.

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 18, 2016 at 9:47 PM

      Haha, well ladies didn't have to wear them ALL the time. This is just one of the styles of caps, and if you hair was dressed then you could have no cap at all, just a hat.

  • Aquazoo

    July 17, 2016 at 5:00 PM

    Very nice and foofy! Your rear drawstring looks like a narrow cotton stay tape, one of my favorites for that use. Or is it a handwoven tape?

  • DLM

    July 18, 2016 at 10:05 PM

    This may be one of my favorite posts of yours, EVER. The cap is lovely, and looks just perfect, but the line "Ladies of all ages and rank wore this cap, some of them finer than others (the ladies and the caps)." and that delightful photo of you just-can't-even-ing are such fun.

    Thought of you last night while looking at the Advanced Style blog – check out the Beatrix Ost link here: Her shoes are Duchess-worthy!

  • Anonymous

    August 13, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    You have made such a lovely little cap, is there a pattern for it that you can find on the web? None of the Patterns that I have are anywhere near as pretty.

  • sam b

    November 29, 2017 at 3:32 PM

    My CADD kicked in after reading this post (okay, it was just waiting for an excuse) and I started a cap right away! Had enough matching batiste scraps,barely,although I had to piece the ruffle AND the caul. Found out from youtube and other sites, there were better ways to do rolled hems than whatever it was I was doing–can't even remember how I used to slog along, it makes so much sense now. While I won't be overjoyed when a project calls for rolled hems, it will no longer be a deal-breaker. I'd never even heard of rolled gathers before, but another google search fixed that, and one site that really intrigued me says her extant cap has the rolled gathers whipped to the cap IN THE SAME STEP! OMG, that sounds so cool!( ) She has lots of photos both for the stitching and the cap creation, including lots of side-by-sides with her extant cap. It kinda looks like the original sewist rolled the top of the ruffle what we would consider "wrong-side-out", it's really purl-y on the outside. She (blogger, not 1700's sewist) ended up doing the two steps separately the way you did, tho. I'm still swatching the rolled-whipped-gathers to see if I can pull it off. Then maybe I'll finish my S8162 stays…and re-fit the gown I made in '07…

  • Jenerators

    October 26, 2018 at 11:18 PM

    Coming very late to the party… I made the 1740s cap from your book but it's WAY too small… (yes I graded up to the 1" squares) it looks like it might fit an 18" doll. My head is not that size! For example, my finished band is only 1 1/4" wide. I'm not a hand sewer as a general rule and was hoping to be able to mostly make this on my machine so perhaps I should have added seam allowances to the pattern as given? Any other hints? Please? (I need this for next weekend!)


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