Chaperons were a development of the common hood (Figures 1 & 2) that had existed in Europe from the beginning of the Middle Ages.
The chaperon was, at first, only a larger and more decorated hood (Figures 3 & 4). It included a shoulder cape often with “dagged” (leaf-like) edges, and a “liripipe”: a long trailing point which came from the back.
Sometime around 1300 someone, (it is not recorded who), decided to wear the chaperon with his head thrust into the hole normally reserved for the face (Figures 5 & 6), thus having the whole rest of the hood’s parts dangle off the top of the head. Curiously, after a while, this became the most common way of wearing the chaperon, so that chaperons get designed which better serve this style. To begin with, liripipes are lengthened even further so as to counterbalance the weight of the shoulder cape on the other side. Stitching is used to hold the folds of what once were the neck and shoulder parts into attractive and less floppy pleats.
Finally, chaperons were made that were wholly hats, built upon a stable band or “turban” styled donut. Figure 7 shows a simple band type chaperon, while figures 8 through 11 show how to make this type of hat.
Post-crusade trade with the Middle east encouraged the development of turban style chaperons, especially in Italy, where much of this trade was passed through to the rest of Europe. The former “face-hole” of the chaperon rapidly became more and more padded during the late 14th, and the 15th centuries, until by 1480 it resembled a very plump donut. Originally these were probably made of wool wadding, but evidence (in the form of a famous drawing of a hat block) in Italy exists to show that these rolls were also made on hollow stiffened bases.
For recreation purposes, however, the easiest method for making the padded roll is simply to weave together a larger than head size ring of willow or coat hanger wire, and wrap it to size with strips of 1″ foam mattress padding, or thick quilt batting. (see figures 13 & 14)
The padded roll can be covered then in one of two ways, either with a large bias or stretch cover smoothed across the outside and carefully hand gathered or eased in the center (see figures 12 & 15), or by wrapping the padded roll in bias strips going around and around the edge of the roll (see figures 17 & 18). This latter style has the advantage of being able to add a long strip of fabric to the top that dangles down in imitation of the liripipe, and which can be used to hold the hat dangling from the left shoulder when indoors or in church, by the simple expedient of tucking the strip into the belt in front.
Figure 17. Complex looking chaperon c.1480, which is simple to make. This chaperon uses the same padded roll as Figures 12-14, but has it’s “lettuce” made in a circular fashion (see figure 18) and tacked to the crown. The roll is covered with two contrasting stretch strips of fabric wrapped around the foam repeatedly, and a lined one which dangles down in imitation of a liripipe.
Generally, the Chaperon began to lose popularity in the late 15th Century, yet it had been incorporated into a number of official uniforms for orders of knighthood during the preceding 100 years. By 1500 it’s popularity had waned so much that it was so usual for knights in these orders to wear the hat solely on their left shoulder that the hats reduced in size and were permanently stitched to the capes or robes in the area of the left shoulder blade. The strip to the front was affixed to the right hip, but need not be weight bearing, and so often came to be made of lighter fabrics. By 1600 the roll of the former chaperon was literally the size of a donut, and on some knightly uniforms disappeared entirely. However the English orders of the Bath and the Garter still retain these vestiges of what once were hoods. This is why the baldricks of these orders of knighthood (as well as many others) are not right shoulder to left hip (such as those based on sword-sashes are) but are left shoulder to right hip, because they are based on the convenient method for holding a 15th Century, chaperon on, while doffing your hat in church.
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