to popular belief, your wimpel need not be uncomfortable. Because of the
lack of textile evidence, we have to use other sources, such as related
finds, manuscript pictures and literary evidence to give us a picture of
what people wore. This makes it so much easier to decide on something that
is comfortable and yet looks right.
Unfortunately, once married, all good Christian women
(and most were Christian by this time) had to cover their heads. There are
three possible reasons for this:
wimples shown in the art of the time are all voluminous looking things,
covering the forehead, neck and coming down over the
shoulders. They all have many folds in them where they pass over the
head, which some interpreters have suggested, may be produced by the
hair bundled on top of the head, to which the wimple could be pinned.
As they are all fairly loose looking things (though in all cases except
the vices no hair is visible), some form of fixing would be necessary,
and this is indicated by a few literary references to 'haer-naedls'
and 'feax-preons'. Literary references are also made to caps, 'cæppe'
and 'hæt', the cap which could be worn under the wimple and
have the wimple pinned to it. None of these names give us any clue
to the shape of the garment in question, so we can use our own discretion,
providing the result covers fore-head, ears, neck and part of the
From the manuscript evidence the wimple would appear
to be made of the same fabric as the under-dress (as they are similarly
coloured), which is linen. However, this needn't be the natural colour
of the linen, but could be any colour available to that person's class.
1. Etheldreda, from London, BL
MS Additional 49598, fol . 90v.
wimples are plain, although one illustration of a group of nuns from
Barking shows the wimples with embroidered decoration over the forehead
of lines, dots and circles. The nuns of Barking were reprimanded for
the frivolity of their clothes, as those that had given their lives
to God were supposed to shun luxury and live simple lives.
|Fig 2. Heads
of figures from London, Lambeth Palace Library MS 200, fol. 68v.
The head-band or
'fillet' was also worn by married women, either under the wimple,
so the wimple could be pinned to it, or over the wimple (Fig
3), holding it in place.
So far, there are three types of wimple worn by
- the simple wrap around
- the hood-type
- the circle with hole
|Fig 3. Woman
with fillet, from London, BL MS Cotton Claudius B iv, fol. 76.