This image of a member of the Women's Institute in Dorset at a Christmas Party around 1953 shows a woman wearing a very distinctive head-dress. All the other women in the picture are bare-headed or wearing conventional hats.

enter image description here

(The image is cropped from a group photo in a newspaper because some of the individuals shown are still alive.)

The same style of head-dress was observed on one other occasion, worn by a woman attending church. In that instance, It wasn't the person's usual usual head-wear; she normally wore an ordinary hat or went bare-headed.

The style is sufficiently distinctive to suggest that it might have a special meaning. Can anyone confirm that is the case, or demolish the suggestion?

Update: The local historian for the WI branch in question doesn't know the significance and can't identify the individual.

  • Could it be a wimple or a shawl?
    – Luke_0
    Jan 28, 2014 at 15:13
  • A wimple (as worn by a nun) is unlikely given the context. It could be a shawl, although difficult to arrange a shawl with the points showing like that?
    – user104
    Jan 28, 2014 at 15:29
  • The Vintage Knitting Lady, thevintageknittinglady.co.uk/ladieshats.html, has some patterns for combined hat/scarf items that are a bit like this. Keeps your head warm and shows off your knitting.
    – user1221
    Apr 1, 2014 at 4:00
  • @cluelass Looking at site you linked to -- do you think the headwear is what the VSL is calling a "scarf hood"? Was there a particular pattern you wanted to point out as being similar to this one?
    – Jan Murphy
    Apr 1, 2014 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


It could be from a conservative Protestant or Jewish sect where women wear head coverings, such as Eastern Orthodox.

If you know for sure that some of the people are still alive, I would suggest tracking them down and asking if they remember anything about her.

It reminds me a bit of Whistler's Mother, or of a Russian "babushka" scarf.

  • Are you able to include images of any of these suggestions to facilitate visual comparison?
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 31, 2014 at 20:05
  • I don't have any of my own images, but I found this one on Google Images using the term "religious head covering eastern orthodox": 02varvara.wordpress.com/2008/02/09 Feb 1, 2014 at 0:01
  • Do you mean the ones here? If so, to me the resemblance is remote.
    – PolyGeo
    Feb 1, 2014 at 7:46
  • 1
    Given the context (1950s rural Dorset) and the fact that one 'sighting' was of a woman attending a Church of England service, and the other was as a member of a rural WI branch, I suspect this isn't the explanation.
    – user104
    Feb 1, 2014 at 8:05

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