Jessica's Costume History Page
Throughout the entire history of human costume, there has been and always will be items of dress that will be called “freaks of fashion”. One of considerable interest is the medieval woman’s headpiece known as the hennin.
The hennin was a conical shaped hat that was often gracefully draped with veils of various lengths. It could be single, or double (called an escofflon), or somewhat flattened on top, (known as a truncated hennin). It is a very picturesque addition to any medieval outfit, but the piece itself makes you wonder why in the world anyone would tie such an awkward thing to their heads and attempt to go about life in it. I can see how such an accessory could easily make one’s back ache well before mid-afternoon.
Apparently, this little item was brought over to Europe by Marco Polo who had seen it adorning the Mongol women on his travels. It is also said that crusdaders brought the style back with them. However it came into fashion, it’s origins were from the middle-east. The name “hennin”, comes from the derogatory comment originally thrown at women when the headdress first came into fashion. Despite this initial adversity the hennin prospered, staying in fashion for quite an extent of the early medieval period. Yet another example of a “freak” that succeeded in the fashionable word.