18th Century Patterned Handkerchiefs

Both men and women wore patterned handkerchiefs as neckwear in the 18th century.

Many of these examples were printed, likely onto lightweight cotton or sometimes onto linen or silk, as noted in some runaway descriptions; stripes and checked patterns are more likely to have been yarn-dyed and woven into the textile, as with MFA 51.1992 and MFA 44.804. Some of the examples with white dots or white circles could have been tie-dyed.

Unlike many of the fancier women's fichus and neckerchiefs, these patterned handkerchiefs are almost certainly just squares, folded into whichever shape is appropriate.

In many of the hand-colored mezzotints, different colorists choose different color combinations – or even entirely different patterns – on the same kerchiefs in different versions; I've grouped these together for comparison.


Descriptions of patterned handkerchiefs (mostly from runaway ads)