a. A child’s cap. Obs. ‘Byggen for a chyldes heed, beguyne’ (1530).
2. A cap, a hood, esp. a nightcap (now hist. and rare). ‘ Wyth roses, and vineger, and rewe stamped together, and put in forred clothe or biggen, applied vnto the temples of the heade or forehead, do seace greuous paynes in the head’ (1558).
3. = caul. Obs. rare. ‘called by some Midwiues, the Coyfe, or Biggin of the child; by others, the childs shirt’ (1611).
– Oxford English Dictionary.
Most people won’t have noticed my comment in the Helena Bonham Carter guide that “At least there’s no Unfortunate Biggins!” In Kendra-speak, taken from the mostly-learned-orally Renaissance faire term whereby a singular biggin received an S, because that’s how I heard the term, an Unfortunate Biggins is a coif — fitted to the head, no fancy poufs, no decorative edges, just a simple 16th century-style coif. But more specifically, an Unfortunate Biggins is one that is worn on its own, without any other headwear over it.
Well, many years ago I was watching The Virgin Queen with friends, when the character of Robert Cecil appeared. His character was a little bit slow, a little bit lame, a little bit DERP-y. And I realized that this was all encompassed by the fact that he only ever wore a coif, aka caul, aka biggin, all on its sad lonesome.
And since that time, all biggins/coifs worn on their own have become Unfortunate Biggins to me, and all their wearers look just a little bit soft. To wit:
Now, this doesn’t apply to cute little caps with some fullness, or an interesting face shape.
Nor does it apply to a hat worn over a biggin:
About the only people who can get away with it are children: