Beneath the elaborate wigs that fashionable men wore from the mid-seventeenth to the late eighteenth century, their heads were usually shaved. While relaxing at home or entertaining intimate guests, an informal hat—called a nightcap or negligé cap in England—was worn in conjunction with a roomy wrapping gown in order to keep warm and to ornament the unsightliness of a shorn pate.
Undress caps took a number of forms, including pointed and square, and were constructed from luxurious silks, velvets, and wools. This undress cap, made of fine cotton with undyed natural silk tambour embroidery, rarely survive. The technique is characteristic of the skilled embroiderers working in the area of Bengal on the northeastern coast of India, making these caps an extraordinary ensemble of exotic English imports to have survived together from the turn of the eighteenth century.
This undress cap was made from four triangular 14 quadrants of white cotton, embroidered with stylized branches, blossoms, and leaves and accented with a border of serpentine guilloche on the wide up-turned brim.
A related cap is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.