The History of the Tippet

The tippet used to be one of the few clothing items worn by both men and women. It is a long and narrow strip of clothing, resembling a scarf, worn over the shoulders. It resembles a stole but a more secular rather than ecclesiastical variety. The purpose of the tippet is primarily ornamental, although some variations of the tippet can also provide warmth or protection to the shoulders.

The term can also refer to a long streamer-like strip of fabric, usually white. It was used as an armband, worn above the elbow, with the long end gracefully hanging down to the knee or the ground.

These graceful tippets became fashionable, especially from the 14th to 19th centuries, and were worn by men and women.

an illustration of a woman holding some kind of fruit
14th-century fur-lined tippet or hanging sleeve

These graceful tippets became fashionable especially in the 14th century and was worn by both men and women. 

Tippet in the 15th and 16th centuries 

During the 15th century, the tippet came to define a long streamer. It was also sometimes called a “liripipe,” a clothing element that extended from a hood or hat and could be worn by both men or women. 

Another variation of the tippet was called “zibellino,” a fashion accessory only for women that could be worn around the neck, hung at the waist or carried by hand. It was usually made of certain animals’ pelt (fur), like marten or sable (related to otters and weasels). Here are some examples of the 15th and 16th-century tippet and its variations:

A woman wearing a hood and with fur lippet
16th-century zibellino or fur tippet
a man wearing a black hood and a red robe
“Portrait of a Young Man (Tymotheos)” by Jan van Eyck, 1432. The liripipe is draped in front at left
woman and child in a gorgeous dress, 16th century
A portrait of a woman and child, with zibellino hanging on the woman’s left wrist

Tippet in the 18th and 19th centuries

In 18th-century fashion, the tippet came to define a piece of clothing resembling a cape or a scarf, which was usually worn around the neck and hanging down in front. It was also called a “capelet.” It lasted into the 1800s fashion as a reasonably popular garment.

Here is an example of 18th– and 19th– century tippets:

A portrait vignette of a woman in the 19th century
Adelaide Queen of Great Britatin, Ireland, and Hanover wearing a fur tippet

a tippet in the 19th century

Ecclesiastical tippet

Nowadays, the tippet mostly refers to a long scarf, usually black, worn over the robe by Anglican and Episcopal priests, deacons, and lay readers. It is also called a “preaching scarf.” It is usually made of wool or worsted fabric, although it can also be made of silk if the wearer holds a master’s or doctor’s degree.

Some Lutherans wear black tippets, which are usually embroidered with the seal of the Society of the Holy Trinity when presiding at their daily office.

an Anglican priest wearing a black tippet