The Purple Files: Documentation:
'Headwear diary: Cauls/ Scuffia' 

The Inspiration:

I scoured the net, is as my want and found the picture: Domenico Ghirlandaio Portrait of a Lady, 1480 (right). A smaller Italian (Florentine) snood with whitework and pearl edging. (I just can't leave it plain!)
The best place to look is contempary paintings and, of course, Janet Arnold's
Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd (my garb bible).
In general, it appeared that English cauls were smaller and Italian cauls bigger, but there were smaller ones as right.

Flemmish working women appear to have plainer, white linen cauls.
What is a Caul?
Basically, think : snood. The Elizabethan caul was a small bag, often pinned over a bun, and worn with other headwear including a tall hat, flat caps and coifs.

Domenico Ghirlandaio Portrait of a Lady, 1480

According to Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd , cauls were mainly made of fabric (linen, velvet, silk), fabric with netted cord or plain netting. They were often decorated with blackwork, ribbon, embroidery, couching, pearls, gems and spangles -whatever the well dressed Elizabethan could afford or get away with, given the sumptuary laws of the period.

Muffin caps were larger than the scuffia (caul), often made of linen, black wool, silk , decorated fabric.

Les Femmes la Musicienne - under hat.
Bronzino, Portrait of a Little Girl with a Book.
netted caul.

les Femmes la Musicienne
Caul under head dress
Make a circle (approx. 40cm diam, for larger Italian caul, and 30 cm diam , for smaller Elizabethan Caul). I used a 45 cm circle. gather approx. 1.5 cm in from edge, to the headband width. (Measure around head to where you want the caul) I used 60cm, as I wanted a larger Italian one.

1. gather the circle

2. Pin the headband to the gathered caul

3. Sew the band to the coif.

4. fold over the band and pin to caul circle.

5. handsew the 'hem' on. You can add combs to hold it to your head, if you wish.

6. I decided on a pomegranite pattern for my whitework. I like them.

Finally, I have finished the embroidery, whitework in splitstitch, and edging the caul band with pearls.
I used a blanket stitch to position the pearls on the very edge of the b and 
Viola! The finished article! (R)
How do you think it compares to the Domenico Ghirlandaio portrait. I like my cauls larger, as they keep my head warmer!

Though.... on closer inspection, I think there could be a tie under the chin, which may explain the way the caul is pulled, so some of the underside is showing?!



  • Arnold, Janet Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd
  • Arnold, Janet Patterns of Fashion, McMillan, New York, 1985, ISBN: 0-89676-027-8
  • Gostelow, Mary Blackwork, Dover, New York ,1998, ISBN 0-486-40178-2
  • Leed, Drea The Well Dress'd Peasant:16th C Flemish Workingwomen's Dress, Costume & Dressmaker Press, Trinidad, Colarado, 2000
  • Vecellio, Cesare Vecellio's Renaissance Costume Book, Dover Publications, New York, ISBN: 0-486-23441-x
  • Tudor and Elizabethan Coifs (9/8/00)
  • Constructing an Elizabethan Caul (9/8/00, confirmed 2/7/03)
  • 16th Century Cauls, Hairnets and Snoods. (2/7/03)

Painting References on the web:

  • Bronzino, Eleanor of Toledo (at Ufuzzi)
  • Raphael: Portrait of a Woman (La Donna Gravida), 1505-1506 (Festive Attyre) (june, 2003)
  • Pierfrancesco Foschi: Portrait of a Lady, (Festive Attyre) (6, 2003)
  • Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of a Lady (Festive Attyre)
  • Domenico Ghirlandaio: Portrait of a Lady, 1480 (Festive Attyre)
  • Domenico Ghirlandaio: A Young Woman, 1485 (Festive Attyre)
  • Les Femmes Musiciennes:
  • Vincenzo Catena, 1520-25: Portrait of a Woman (Realm of Venus) (June, 2003)
  • Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), 1511: Portrait of a Woman Known as La Schiavona (Realm of Venus) (June, 2003)

And for those who like LIVE JOURNALS... However be warned, I do not update regularly.
All intellectual content, photos and layout are copyright to La Signora Onorata Katerina da Brescia (K Carlisle), except those original renaissance artworks and extant articles whose copyright remains with the current owner.
If you would like to use something from this site, please contact me, and cite this website reference.

(c). K.Carlisle, 2008.