1650s Milkmaid Cap

February – March 2016

My version of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid’s cap, handsewn in fine linen. Though her cap seems to be made of a coarser material, comparable caps in finer fabrics can also be found.

Coarser linen cap: Johannes Vermeer, 1658: detail from The Milkmaid
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Finer linen cap: Jan Steen, 1668: detail from The Merry Family
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The shape of my cap is conjecture based on this front-only view. I experimented with caps and coifs from Patterns of Fashion 4 but gathered cauls weren’t smooth enough. And I don’t think the milkmaid is wearing a hood since the cap wraps tightly around her head. So my pattern is a cap/hood hybrid. It has two pieces: a band and a caul. The band is a long turned back rectangle, modeled after Cap #59 in POF4. A single dart helps the band lie flat over the curved part of the head. The caul is a considerably sized-up version of #61, 1650-60 Baby’s Cap (POF4, p.105). It’s darted to fit the band. I found that the oval shape was key to getting a nice fit.
Many of the caps in POF have teeny, tiny hems. But a Falling Band (#40) has 1/4″ hems, so I went ahead and made mine 3/16″. It’s also worth noting that in the portrait the band’s hem is exposed since it’s turned back. I don’t plan to ever wear my cap with the band down. So I hemmed my outer edge “wrong side up.”