Friday, October 7, 2016

Turbans and Bandeaus

Mamalouc Cap
image credit:    

“We happened to sit by the Mitchells, and they pretended to be quite surprized to see me out. I knew their spite: -- at one time they could not be civil to me, but now they are all friendship; but I am not such a fool as to be taken in by them. You know I have a pretty good spirit of my own. Anne Mitchell had tried to put on a turban like mine, as I wore it the week before at the concert, but made wretched work of it.” Northanger Abbey chapter 27

Isabella is in a desperate mood. She had her affair with Frederick Tilney and lost James Morland. She has badly misjudged everything. She needs to work her way back into Catherine’s affection. To demonstrate her spirit and judgment to Catherine she tells how she can see right through the Mitchells and their false civility as she certainly saw through Frederick Tilney’s, but she cannot resist a dig at poor Anne Mitchell’s turban.

Of course Catherine is having none of it.

“Such a strain of shallow artifice could not impose even upon Catherine. Its inconsistencies, contradictions, and falsehood struck her from the very first. She was ashamed of Isabella, and ashamed of having ever loved her. Her professions of attachment were now as disgusting as her excuses were empty, and her demands impudent. "Write to James on her behalf! -- No, James should never hear Isabella's name mentioned by her again."” Northanger Abbey  chapter 27

It is very natural that Isabella would attack Anne Mitchell for her shoddy turban since wearing appropriate yet fashionable headwear was important to a lady’s appearance.

Jane Austen often mentions headwear in her letters. Writing in January 1799, about the time she was working on Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen wrote:

The Ball at Kempshott is this Evening…I am not to wear my white sattin cap to night after all; I am to wear a Mamalouc cap instead…” Deidre Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, p. 34.

The author of the Austenonly blog has done a great job tracking down exactly what was a Mamalouc cap. It’s kind of a combination turban plus fez as pictured at the top of this post. (

On another occasion she mentions wearing a bandeau-like headpiece.

“I wore at the Ball your favorite gown, a bit of muslin of the same round my head, border’d with Mrs Cooper’s band--& one little comb—“
Deidre Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth edition, p.56

If these instructions are not quite enough to teach you how to construct a proper bandeau or turban, come to the next meeting of JASNA CWNY. Our own regional coordinator and Regency dress expert will be leading a workshop on Regency Turbans and Bandeaus. Come to learn more about the headwear of Jane Austen’s time or to prepare for your next ball. Please bring a long rectangular scarf. The results will be beautiful.

A turban from a previous turban workshop
The details are below. 

Please note we are meeting in a different location.

Event:     JASNA CWNY October Meeting
Topic:     Lisa Brown presenting a Turban adn Bandeau Workshop
                  Brighton Library Learning Center, 2300 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618
When:    Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 1 pm
Extra:     Please bring a long rectangular scarf to make your own turban

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