Traditional headdress of the women of Brittany

I have already written about the unusual headgear of the Mongolian , Chinese Miao and Ladakhi women. And today's post will focus on maybe not as exotic, but very beautiful head dresses of the women of Brittany. Brittany is a historical region in the north-west of France, with a population of just over 4 million people. This small region is famous for its variety of traditional costume, officially there are 66 of them. Essential part of the women's costume is a headgear called coiffe. There are more varieties of coiffe than of costume, because for a young woman of marriageable age, for a married lady or for a widow coiffe must be different. They vary in size and complexity, from small pieces of lace worn over a bun, to elaborate, towering creations with flowing ribbons, but there is something common between them all: they are of white colour and mostly are made of lace (sometimes embroidered calico is used instead).

The most famous (but not the most beautiful) not only in Brittany, but throughout France is the coiffe of Bigouden, it is a 30-40 cm high cylinder of starched lace, perched on top of the head, like a tower. It has become an icon of folkloric Brittany.

Each village and region has singularities in the coiffe, which tell the others about where the woman is from. And the names of the headdresses come from the names of those regions: Carhaix, Quimper, Saint-Malo.  The most beautiful coiffe from my point of view are from Pont Aven and Pontivy.

photo from here

Some more varieties of the coiffe

photo from  here

The use of such headdress disappeared quite recently, and even in the 50s, their use was still common. Nowadays no one wears coiffe in everyday life anymore (except for a few older women in some villages), but during festivals the Breton women still, like a hundred years ago, cover their heads with lace, ribbons, cones and caps.

Big thank you for the permission of sharing these beautiful photos to
Richard White
Barka Fabianova
Monique Pinguilly


  1. intresting post abt unusual headgear
    than for sharing

  2. Nice post:) If you want go to my blog:)

  3. Very artfull these headdresses and some of the embroidered dresses too. Especially as the most of them are handmade, I think.

  4. Wow, they are stunning! Now that's what I call lace, none of that cheap and nasty machine made polyester stuff that we call lace...this is the real deal! So much work (and patience) must have gone into making these, I reckon it would be a great honor for a pretty young lady to wear one of these. I love the fabulously embroidered frocks too especially the ones with the stunning collars. Another brilliantly informative post, thank you...xXx

  5. I became interested in the coiffes while reading the article about them in National Geographic issue, April 2014,(Legacy in Lace).
    Where can I find instructions and equipment to make these beautiful headdresses?
    Due to an an abusive wife. I have been out of work for many years with nothing to do but sat around and wonder if I will have any better days ahead of me.


    Mike Allen