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What Is a Mob-Cap?

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  • Written By: Stacy C.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2014
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A mob-cap, or mob cap, is a round, bonnet-style women's hat, which was fitted to the head with a series of pleats or gathers. A caul or bubble in the back was designed for women to tuck their hair under. The cap was usually made of linen or cotton and could be adorned with a ribbon band or with ruffles around the brim. Some styles draped down on either side of the face and could be tied under the chin as well. It was often worn by ladies in the Georgian period of British history, American colonial women, and servants in the Victorian era. The cap covered the hair and was usually only worn inside — if worn outside, a secondary hood or hat was used to cover it.

During the Georgian period, mob-caps normally were only worn by married women. The cap was worn both inside and outside; women seen without a mob-cap were thought to be in a state of undress. If women wore the cap outside, however, another hat or bonnet went over the top of it, as the mob-cap was considered indoor apparel. The purpose of the cap was to protect hair from everyday dust and dirt since women of the era did not bathe on a daily basis. At the time, it was easier and cheaper to wash a mob-cap than it was to take a bath and shampoo the hair.

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Once the trend reached colonial America, both women and unmarried girls of any status level wore the cap. Portrayals of early American icons, such as Martha Washington and Betsy Ross, are often shown wearing mob-caps. By the Victorian era, the cap was relegated to working class women — usually servants or nurses.

Today, a modern variation of the mob-cap can be found in the medical industry, testing laboratories, or anywhere else with a sterile environment that requires the hair to be covered. The modern version is usually a simple, circular piece of cheap material — often nylon — with elastic around the edges to hold the cap secure. These are usually designed for one-time use, similar to a shower cap.

There are a variety of costume uses for mob-caps. They can be purchased already made, but easy mob-cap patterns can also be found in most pattern catalogs containing seasonal costume patterns. Costumes that commonly require or benefit from mob-caps include maids; Renaissance Faire women, although this is historically inaccurate; and Colonial and Victorian-era women.

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Acracadabra
Post 4

My sister is really into 1800s clothing, and recently she bought some patterns based on authentic designs for headwear of the time.

The great thing is each one comes with full instructions for how to make a mob-cap, which is pretty useful. (She has lofty ambitions but her skill level doesn't quite match!)

I'm no history buff but I'm learning a few things about women's lifestyles. Yesterday she was talking about how a hat had to reflect social status and age. So older women wore a different style to young women and so on.

BoniJ
Post 3

I love reading about and looking at pictures of fashion attire from past ages. Some of the clothing was made just for fashion flair. But others were designed with a purpose. The mop cap was one of these - since the ladies couldn't take baths and wash their hair very often, they adapted by wearing these caps to tuck their hair under.

Those poor ladies, who had to wear a cap all day long inside. It would drive me crazy! By the late 1900s, the caps became part of the traditional uniform worn by maids.

strawCake
Post 2

@JaneAir - That is interesting. I believe the mob-cap is still in existence among the Amish, as well. The description of a mob-cap in this article sounds a lot like the bonnets Amish women wear. I believe for the Amish the cap is worn for purposes of modesty, much like women in the Georgian-period.

JaneAir
Post 1

I find it really interesting that sterile caps worn for surgery are descended from the mob-cap. The style may be the same, but the purposes of the caps are certainly different! Who knew one design could go from protecting a ladies modesty to protecting a patient from germs?

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