For Precious Infant Heads: Pudding Caps

For Precious Infant Heads: Pudding Caps
Young Governess of a child helping a very young child to walk; he is dressed in a little Sailor suit, but he is equipped with a Pudding Cap and also wears leading strings. (1780)

In the eighteenth century, children’s clothing underwent a gradual evolution from constricting garments patterned after those worn by adults to loose fitting dresses similar to those worn by women the standard apparel for both sexes. Along with this philosophy of freedom, the practice of swaddling infants tightly became a thing of the past. While clearly a wonderful, natural way for children to grow strong and thrive, for the awkward infant and rambunctious toddler, the potential for harm to the tender head was a concern.

Enter the safety hat most commonly called the PUDDING CAP due to its shape resembling an infant’s pudding bowl. Essentially an early version of the crash helmet, a pudding cap, or bumper cap, was a thickly padded cap placed directly over the top of the head and above the ears, sometimes with a thin linen bonnet worn underneath but not always. As seen from the example above, while designs and materials varied slightly, in general a pudding cap consisted of a round band with three or four triangular flaps tied at the top of the head.

The outer material could literally be anything, although most often the material was sturdy leather, heavy quilting, velvet, and so on. The inner fabric would be softer velvet, cotton, silk, muslin, etc., and of course it was preferred to adorn the cap with embroidery and pretty ribbons. Whatever fabric choice, the inside of the band and flaps was stuffed with layers of horsehair and wadding until firm enough to prevent injury to the infant’s head if he or she fell.

Portrait of a 3-year old boy with hat and dog, 1783.
Abraham van Strij
The Children of Councillor Barthold Heinrich Brockes by Balthasar Denner (1680-1747)



Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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Maria Sousa

Thank you for this mail. Very interisting information; I had no idea !


Who knew the children were so well protected in those days? It seems a bit of a shame that this fashion died out! I think my favourite of those shown is the blue one in the middle of the bottom row.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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