A widow's cap (or mourning cap), a sign of mourning worn by many women after the death of their husbands, was a sign of religious and social significance and was worn through the first mourning period during the 19th century (Victorian era).
The Victorian era was named for Britain's Queen Victoria. Victoria took the throne in 1837 and died on 22 January 1901. Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, died of typhoid on 14 December 1861. For forty years Victoria was in mourning. She fully mourned for three years and dressed her whole court the same way. The Victorian era reflected the Queen’s prudence and her personal taste in mourning. Victorian mourning fashion aimed particularly women, widows to be more exact. The fashion had a way of isolating a widow in her time of need just as Queen Victoria had done. Mourning attire was the main way to show how wealthy and respectable a woman was.
A Victorian mourning cap was identified by its black colour or tone (depending on the level of mourning). The more recent the loss the simpler the design. The shape of the cap depended on the age of the widow but the most common was peaked at the front. Widows caps, were either lisse, tulle or tarlatan, shape depending mainly on the age. Young widows wore mainly the Marie Stuart shape, but all widows' caps had long streamers. Their prices were various. Tarlatan could be home-made, but widows did not like home-made widows' caps because even though economical, they were ruined quicker than bought caps. It was smart to buy extra streamers and bows for them as they could be used at home to make morning caps,excellent thread and needles being used for the work. In summer a parasol was required which had to be of silk deeply trimmed with crape, almost covered with it, but lace and fringe was not allowed in the first year. Later mourning fringe could be used. A muff, had to be made of dark fur or of Persian lamb.
Mary Stuart Cap
A Mary Stuart cap or attifet is a type of hat which was made well known in the Elizabethan era, thanks to it regularly appearing in portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots. This specially styled cap became quite fashionable for a small period of time, and even became part of formal mourning dress until the Victorian era. A classic Mary Stuart cap is discerned by being very tight, with a solid piece of triangular material which hangs over the forehead, creating a heart shape when it is viewed from the front. The design was intended to hold a veil, which would usually be worn over the cap, and the material might be rolled into shape in the back or formed with wires which held it tightly in place. The cap also flickered slightly at the sides to accommodate rolls of hair.
-  Wheeler, H. (2012). Widow's cap from New South Wales. Australian Museum. Retrieved from: http://australianmuseum.net.au/Widows-cap-from-New-South-Wales.
-  Pennington, J. (2012). Victorian Hair Art : A Curious Way To Mourn. The Curious Collections of Barnabas Dire. Retrieved from: http://curiousmatters.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/victorian-hair-art-a-curious-way-to-mourn/ .
-  Cranford, K. (2012). The Honorable Mrs. Jamieson’s Mourning Cap. Gaskell Blog. Retrieved from: http://gaskellblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/elizabeth-gaskells-cranford-the-honorable-mrs-jamieson%E2%80%99s-mourning-cap/ .
-  Victorian Mourning Customs from Collier's Cyclopedia published in 1901. (2002). Quilt History. Retrieved from: http://www.quilthistory.com/VMC.htm.
-  McMahon, M. (2013). What is a Mary Stuart Cap?. wiseGEEK. Retrieved from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-mary-stuart-cap.htm .