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.
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.