Terminology: Buffons, Fichu, Neckerchief, Handkerchief

One of the questions that has come up in 18th & early 19th century costuming is what to call the ubiquitous scarves/neck-fillers.  Are they handkerchiefs?  Fichus?  Neckerchiefs?  And when did each term arise? A handkerchief was a large square of fabric folded into a triangle, or cut and sewn as a triangle, worn around the neck throughout the 18th century. If you were upper class, your handkerchief would probably be white.  Poorer woman were more likely to wear darker handkerchiefs that would show less dirt.  George Eliot describes Adam Bedes mother at the end of the 18th century with “her broad chest covered with a buff handkerchief.”  Handkerchiefs were not limited to women – men wore then as bohemian alternatives to cravats and stocks. They could be of linen or silk, or later cotton.  For men and women, silk versions were the dressiest.   They were frequently embroidered, and could be bought pre-made, but even the very wealthy frequently made their own, as the decorative finishes were considered appropriate needlework for a gentlewoman. Neckerchiefs were … Continue reading Terminology: Buffons, Fichu, Neckerchief, Handkerchief