The Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław is proud of its collection of about 320 coifs. The exhibits which come mostly from 19th century account for valuable comparative source for historic and also cultural-social studies. Sumptuous coifs of Lower Silesia – made of superb fabric and lavishly decorated would manifest the owner’s wealth. Each married woman used to possess at least one gala coif and more affluent ladies boasted on having several such caps. Treated as a good capital deposit coifs were carefully stored and preserved intact. Being this the reason many of them survived in an exceptionally good condition when compared with other kind of clothing.
One-piece coif, 19th century, Lower Silesia
Coif patterns could be divided into three groups – triangle-like coif tailored from one portion of fabric, two-piece coifs which consist of the crown of the cap and the rim and three-piece coifs made of a centre piece and two side panels. The headgear may have been tailored of one-coloured silk, velvet, wool, patterned with brocade cotton linen or flax linen and tulle. Usually they were stiffened with cardboard or with linen stiffener, rimmed with so called ‘beard’ i.e. with strongly starched black lace arranged into fine pleats and stiffened with a metal wire; others used to be trimmed with fur and used as winter attire.
Three-piece coif, 19th century, Lower Silesia
Lavishly decorated coifs are sewn with gold and silver thread, decorated with sequins, gems and beads. Combination of various elements would make unique textural embroidery with decorative plant-like motifs. Coifs were additionally trimmed with laces, tapes and ribbons – usually fixed at the back of the head forming a bow. All the coifs were hand-made, most of them sewn by professional coif makers.