In my research about clothing worn in Portugal early 19th century by common people I came across this funny cap/hat worn, it seems, only by women.
Portuguese peasants; by James Murphy in "Travels in Portugal", 1797.
I couldn't explain it and even less so after I've done a tour on the production of olive oil here in Oeiras, where I live, in the 18th century, where there was a lady in period costuming with a similar cap and she couldn't explain what it was or where or why...
18th century Portuguese peasant impression; explaining how olive oil was made, Oeiras, 2011; picture taken by me.
So the questions remained: Why the shape, was the tip of the hood to ease the weight of things carried ion the top of the head, where did it came from, was it a regional item, and so on, and so on, you get the picture. As all things according to my personal beliefs, sooner or later I would come across an answer. And I did!
Last Friday I wanted to do a quick research on knitted caps, hoods or hats that I could use in my early 19th century impression, and what did I saw googling images on the net??? TADA! That type of cap I saw on period images before!
It's called, as you can see on the title of this post, a peasant's cap, only worn by women and yes, it was a regional item. Worn mostly in the region around the river Tagus, so, from Lisbon to Sintra, including Oeiras, up North to Torres Vedras, in fact in all of the Beiras regions. It originated, most likely, from the so called Phrygian cap, somewhere around the 12th century before Christ, in what is known today as Turkey. This type of cap (pileus) was also worn by emancipated slaves in the Roman Empire and this is the part of historical info I wanted.
Pilos worn by man, painted on a greek dish, 4th century BC, Louvre Museum.
It seems that this conical shape of a felted hat became, since the classics, a symbol of emancipation/liberty and also a symbol of the working classes in so many periods, from the French Revolution to the emancipation of South American countries. Even worn on Britania at the end of slavery in the British Empire in 1807(!).
AHA! So that's the link that I was looking for. The reason why, so many centuries later, in Portugal, it was used by peasant women (I believe); it was a people's clothing item. Since it was a workers thing, most of the period images would be drawn with the woman wearing the cap, next to a donkey. Because that was the means of transportation of the time for working people and those who had heavy loads to carry: carrying olives to the olive oil press, carrying clothing to be washed in the river, etc.
The Portuguese cap, also conical in shape, had a fold sewn at the bottom, which gave it a unique flair. It disappeared as soon as the industrial revolution became part of daily life in Portugal at the end of the 19th century.
On the pictures below, you can see a few more examples of the barretina saloia, that I took from a helpfull blog post (http://cintraseupovo.blogspot.pt/2011/01/barretinas-saloias.html)I have to excuse myself, though, that the images don't have bibliographical references. I will correct that as soon as possible.