An endless variety of ladies' caps were worn in the mid-1860s. Caps had been around for a very long while, so the idea was not new. Only the styling changed to suit the fashions of the day.
As with many items, how elaborate the cap was depended on the formality of the occasion, the type of event, or the lady’s station in life. If you were wealthy, your cap would likely reflect your status. A lady of more moderate means would have a cap of more moderate appearance.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Caps are the most difficult articles to advise on; they almost entirely depend on the taste of the milliner and the fashion of the day." (Godey's, June 1860) Even the trendy Godey’s Lady’s Book could not give any concise or definitive guidelines on what was considered the appropriate look.
Enjoy these carte de vistas from the era that show the variety of caps worn. Some I found online and others are from my collection.
A jaunty lace cap on a young lady
A pretty, and perhaps understated cap
|Most definitely showing off her lace lappets!|
|Certainly this is a grand cap!|
Once again, quite the fancy cap!
Note the tones of materials used for the cap—not unusual for this time period
|These ladies are sporting both square and rectangular caps|
From "Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places"