1840-1880 Smoking caps
c1880 Smoking cap in black velvet with bold red and gold floral embroidery
A smoking cap or lounging cap was popular as informal gentlemen’s wear, in the privacy of their homes, from the late 1840s through to the 1880s. They were originally worn to keep the head warm in drafty rooms but continued to be in style, long after improvements in heating eliminated their necessity, as caps to stop their hair smelling of tobacco smoke. The need for smoking caps, and smoking wear generally, arose from the social mores of not smoking in front of women and not smelling of smoke when one returned to their presence!
They were soft caps, shaped like a squat cylinder or close fitting like a knit cap, and usually heavily embroidered with a tassel on top. Typically fashioned of wool, silk or velvet, they were frequently brightly coloured and ornate. Designs were influenced by the Orient, especially from the Near and Middle East, a common Victorian influence in many other areas.
The smoking cap was the perfect gift for a young lady to create to give to male partners or relatives. Many of the ladies fashion publications of the nineteenth century devoted pages to fancy designs for at home fashions for the refined Victorian gentleman and included smoking caps. Tassels were available for sale for those ladies who didn’t want to make them.
c1880 Black velvet cap with geometric embroidered chain stitch in yellow and brown. A yellow, cream and red tassel hangs from a twisted double cord and Celtic knot from the centre of the top of the cap.
c1860 Blue velvet cap embroidered with gold and white floral sprays. The large cream and brown tassel hangs from a covered and netted button attached at the centre of the top of the cap.
Silk tassels sold on cards for ladies to add to the gentlemen’s caps they were making.