set her cap

set her cap

A woman's determination to attract a particular man. In the days when women's attire included head coverings, a woman who wanted to appeal to a man would wear her best bonnet. The phase was wellknown in the 18th century, when Jane Austen used it in Sense and Sensibility: “I abhor every commonplace phrase by which wit is intended; and ‘setting one's cap at a man,' or ‘making a conquest,' are the most odious of all.”
See also: cap, set
References in classic literature ?
This is Hattersley's - every page stuffed full of railing accusations, bitter curses, and lamentable complaints, ending up with swearing that he'll get married himself in revenge: he'll throw himself away on the first old maid that chooses to set her cap at him, - as if I cared what he did with himself.
Mother Sparsit never set her cap at Bounderby when he was a bachelor.
Going to set her cap for some young minister and marry him in the spring," added Mrs.