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icon freeOne of my priorities when reproducing the fashions of any era is to be able to create something which can be simultaneously historically accurate and individual and distinctive in style. It is becoming harder and harder to accomplish this with Regency fashion due to the huge amount that is reproduced every year, partly due to the enormous popularity of Jane Austen.

In response I've made it my task to uncover some of the lesser known extant examples of Regency clothing, and over the next few months I will be providing a detailed insight into some more unusual examples of Regency outerwear. These are often found packed away, unseen, in the archives of museums for years, dropping into an oblivion of forgotten fashion styles...

 

The Pelisse, reproduced

Plate 1. © Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council
Plate 1. © Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

Whilst not as popular as the spencer jacket amongst reproductions, the pelisse seems to have been recreated generally to follow the same lines. The typical pelisse is very similar to the example in Plate 1 (right), which is in the collection of the Fashion Museum in Bath.This style, with its high seamed waist, long straight sleeves and small collar, typifies most reproduction pelisses. It is also used as the base style for more elaborate pelisses of the second decade of the nineteenth century, when piping, ruched decoration and appliqued designs become popular.

It's a style often seen reproduced for TV and film, such as in the recent BBC production of Sense and Sensibility, no doubt pushing its popularity forward even further. It can be a relatively simple garment to make, compared, in some cases, even to the dress worn underneath.

Real pelisses

The basic form of the pelisse seems to be a natural progression from the Redingote and the military pelisse.

The Redingote was a development of the riding jacket into a more general purpose coat, which was worn towards the end of the eighteenth century, while the pelisse's military namesake was the short fur-lined jacket worn by hussar light cavalry soldiers.

1811, February Ackermann, fur pelisse
Plate 2. From an 1811 edition of Ackermann's Repository

Indeed, many of the first early nineteenth century garments referred to as pelisses retained many military inspired features. These tend to be most obvious in the decoration, which includes frogging, braid and fur, but also in the more rigid and fitted cut of some garments, giving them a style very reminiscent of a military uniform.

However, there is a subtly different, yet very distinct, second style of pelisse, which is often wholly ignored when it comes to reproducing the fashions of this era. It retains many of the same features as the pelisse style referred to above, but is entirely devoid of any waist seam.

Instead it flows from shoulder to calf in a single graceful line, forming an elegant and refined silhouette. In many ways it is far closer to the original military pelisse in style. This type of pelisse generally appears intended to be more of a summer garment, as the examples I have come across are in lightweight silks and have a very floaty, gentle, breezy quality, again helping to form a softer, prettier silhouette than the more commonly used style. They universally appear to have long sleeves and generally small collars, to keep the breeze off the neck, and often have no fastening at all. They are also a very simple style to recreate, which does not help to explain the lack of reproductions in existence.

Plate 2 (right), taken from an 1811 edition of Ackermann's Repository, shows a military inspired version of this style of pelisse. The frogging and fur decorations can clearly be seen, but from the flowing and light way that the fabric drapes over the woman's body, it would appear to be made from a light weight silk. This example, unlike the extant examples examined in detail below, appears to fasten over the body. However it retains the same silhouette and softer appearance.

 

Other Examples

Fashion plate from La Belle Assemblée, 1812 1815 Walking Costume from Ackermann's Repository. Walking Dress, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblée, April 1817
Portrait of Marchesa Marianna Florenzi, 1824 Vladimir Borovikovsky: Portrait of the sisters Princesses Anna Gargarina and Varvara Gagarina, 1802 Marie-Gabrielle Capet: The time in the Atelier of Madame Vincent around 1800, 1808

 

 

Thanks to the Fashion Museum in Bath, and Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service., I have been lucky enough to be able to examine a number of extant examples of pelisses in this style in detail.

The Jane Austen Pelisse

The first of these currently belongs to the Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service.

However, its alleged original owner was none other than Jane Austen herself. It certainly has a strong connection to the Austen family, and has been linked to a pelisse referred to by Jane Austen as "my brown bombasin" in a letter of 1813, which fits with the date attributed to it due to its trims and other datable elements such as the sleeve heads. However the Jane Austen pelisse is pure silk, rather than the silk and wool mix of bombasin, although its brown colour and long sleeves seem to coincide with other fashion choices Jane Austen was making in this period.

The pelisse itself (right) is made from a light to medium weight twill weave silk, with a small oak leaf repeat pattern in a lighter golden brown.

It is trimmed around the collar with a ruched strip of the same fabric, and around the cuffs and front edges with a thin gold silk cord.

It is lined with a very lightweight off-white silk, and is stitched using a deep burnt gold silk thread.

This combination of silks seems to be very common for this style of pelisse, whilst the waisted style are generally in plain silks and wools.

The construction is also very typical for this style of pelisse. There are five main panels, all of which follow the bodice shape of a gown of the period, but then flare out to form the gored skirt, which would finish at some point down the calf, a few inches shorter than the gown worn underneath.

 

Jane Austen Pelisse
Plate 3. The front view of the Jane Austen Pelisse. Property of Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service

In the pictures below, you can see just how thin the silk of the lining is, as the oak leaf pattern is very visible through it.

You can also see the tiny stitches used to carefully backstitch the sleeves in.

This also gives a very good view of the ruched detailing around the collar, which gives the garment a lighter, pretty element.

This can very easily be reproduced today by regularly gathering up a bias cut strip of fabric and stitching it into the seam.

Jane Austen pelisse, inside Jane Austen pelisse, inside detail
Plate 4. A detail of the inside of the Jane Austen Pelisse. Property of Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service
Plate 4 - a magified view. A detail of the inside of the Jane Austen Pelisse. Property of Hampshire County Council Museums and Archives Service

 

For more details and pictures of the Jane Austen Pelisse, see "Jane Austen's Pelisse coat c. 1814".

 

The Fashion Museum's Silk Pelisse

The next pelisse I will examine, pictured right (plate 5.), is currently on display at the Fashion Museum in Bath.

It is in very much the same style as the Jane Austen pelisse, and is in a very similar weight twill weave patterned silk. There are, however, two main differences in this example.

Firstly, the lack of trim. This indicates that it is slightly earlier in date than Jane Austen's pelisse, probably from around 1807 or 1808. This gives this style of pelisse a very good range of dates, another attribute which should lead it to being reproduced more often.

Secondly, the thin silk ribbon which is attached to the base of the collar indicates that this example could also be fastened, which Jane Austen's could not.

Silk Pelisse from Bath
 
Plate 5. © Fashion Museum
Bath & NE Somerset Council

This general lack of fastening certainly defines this style of pelisse firmly as a piece of clothing for the warmer months of the year, filling in a definite gap in the reproduction garments currently used, which has previously only been filled by a shawl.

It is again possible to see the very thin silk lining on these pelisses. On this example it is held in place by two rows of tiny running stitch, creating an intricate and interesting detail, without being difficult to achieve or taking away from the simplicity of the garment.

Silk Pelisse from Bath, neck detail
 
Plate 5 detail © Fashion Museum
Bath & NE Somerset Council

 

 

The Fashion Museum's Muslin Pelisse

 

The style of the first two pelisses contrasts greatly with that of the next pelisse examined here. Again taken from the collection of the Fashion Museum in Bath, this example (plate 6.) shows the style interpreted in a very different way.

This is definitely a far more elaborate, expensive and fashionable version of the pelisse. The top layer is in a very fine muslin with intricate whitework in vertical stripes down the pelisse. This is framed by a wide, even more delicately worked border. Again it has the same general construction, with five basic panels, and the same long tight sleeves. However this example has no collar, adding to its very elegant high status appearance.

Muslin Pelisse from Bath
 
Plate 6 © Fashion Museum
Bath & NE Somerset Council

The whole thing is lined with a bright saffron yellow silk, which is the same sort of weight as the lining of the previous two pelisses examined.

This bright yellow shimmers through the whitework, perhaps indicating that this pelisse was made for use when attending evening occasions, as candle light would bring out the yellow highlights perfectly. This would also be exaggerated by the hem of the muslin being separate to that of the silk, allowing flashes of the yellow to appear as the wearer walked. This sort of effect would be far harder to recreate effectively on a normal waisted style of pelisse.

Muslin Pelisse from Bath, detail of hem
 
Plate 6 hem detail © Fashion Museum
Bath & NE Somerset Council

 

 

Creating the Pelisse

Although there are currently no commercial patterns available for this pelisse style, it is relatively simple to draft.

A trick way to do this is to take the bodice pattern for the more common style of pelisse and use it as a base from which to draft the new pattern.

Cut the original bodice pieces out of a toile fabric (preferably not calico, as it would be too stiff for this style) but instead of cutting across the bottom of the pieces, continue from the side, slowly tapering out. Ignore the dart placements, instead letting it drape at the front. Once the angles of the gores in the skirt have been adjusted to sit correctly, it can be made into a paper pattern.


These examples are certainly very different and exciting compared to what is normally seen amongst Regency reproductions in general. Between them they also demonstrate the great assortment of styles and looks which can be formed from the same basic design, which would certainly create variety if attending an event wearing your creation.

This style very successfully achieves my aim of creating a good balance between the historically accurate and the exciting and new, enhancing the fashions of a very popular era.


 

spencer_iconPerhaps one of the most surprising discoveries about Regency outerwear is the great variety seen in the styles of Spencer jacket worn throughout the period.

Unlike the Pelisse, which I examined in last month's edition, the Spencer does not have two clear-cut basic styles on which there are subtle variants. Instead, each individual Spencer seems to have a style very much of its own. The only clear delineation between styles is their use as summer, winter or evening Spencers, but even these boundaries are occasionally crossed.

 

 

Spencers on Film

What has come to be known as the typical Spencer, as seen in the 1995 BBC production of Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice', is the type of Spencer that follows the same lines as the dress bodice, the only differences occurring in the fabric and the slightly more elaborate sleeve heads. This design, no doubt due to the ease of reproducing it and its immediately recognisable style, has been popular in recent film and TV productions depicting this period.

The most exciting Spencers seen in these productions have the addition of a peplum, which is a short pleated frill at the centre back, and which was a popular adornment in the Regency period. However, as with the Pelisse, the variety of Spencer styles actually seen in the period is not demonstrated in these productions.

The Spencer is Born

George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer
George, 2nd Earl Spencer

Allegedly, the Spencer came into being in the 1790s when George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (Plate 1) singed his coat tails when standing by the fire, and so he angrily cut them off. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the removal of the coat tails actually occurred after the same Earl Spencer caught his coat tails in brambles while out hunting. This style caught on as a male fashion, as a waist length, double breasted man's jacket, which was often adorned with military medals, the better to emulate Earl Spencer.

The Spencer soon became popular in women's fashion, as an ideal addition to the often very thin and chilly dresses which had become fashionable. The original style did follow the same lines as the dress itself (see below), just as Earl Spencer's had followed the lines of his tail coat, acting as a warmer second layer over the bodice. However, as the high waisted dress style evolved and developed, so too did the Spencer.

 

march_1796 Watercolor sketch showing day dress with short "spencer" jacket, ca. 1798, for a fashion plate engraving Illustration of a woman riding sidesaddle while wearing a dress of lawn and a jockey cap, from Journal des Dames, 1799.
March 1796, Morning Dress
from The Gallery of Fashion
1798 - Fashion plate 1799 Journal des Dames

Unusual Spencers

Green Spencer

As we cross into the nineteenth century and the high waisted style becomes more established, people appear to have become more and more adventurous with styles of the Spencer. The form of the little jacket broke away from the 'second bodice' style, seen at the end of the previous century, and became an item to be independently designed in its own right, and in its own unique style.

The Spencer shown right demonstrates these changes perfectly. Its design lends it to be used in the same way as a shrug or cardigan is worn today. It is open at the front, unlike its predecessors, and follows a different line to the bodice of the dress at the waist and at the collar.

This waist in particular is significantly lower, and does not have the same tight, close fitting lines as the gown, and the collar seems to have a more practical use that seen in the above Spencer from 1796 in that it would be an effective shield against draughts. The lady right also appears to be outside, as her left hand seems to be resting on a rock, rather than a table or sofa.

This would indicate that this Spencer was designed as a light jacket for summer wear, as opposed to the Spencer above left which, with the addition of the muff to the outfit, and that it was a design for March, was obviously designed for cooler weather.

 


The image left, taken from La Belle Assemblée, shows a far greater resemblance to the original style Spencer above. However, the very high collar with the ruff, and the interesting dip at the centre front give this Spencer originality and interest. Again, it sits significantly below the waist of the dress, unlike the other bodice-like Spencers. This length below the waist often seems to be a problem amongst reproductions, as many follow the waist line of the dress, which, when the wearer moves, can create gaps where the dress bodice is seen. By using styles of Spencer with a lower waist, which seem to have been more common anyway, this problem is immediately eliminated.

Also unlike the Spencer from 'Pride and Prejudice' this Spencer gives a splash of colour to the white muslin dress, adding visual vitality to a style which, by 1815, had been in use for twenty years.

La Belle Assemblee, 1813
Military style Spencer and matching gown from La Belle Assemblee 1813

Next, we move on to a very different style of Spencer indeed.

The Spencer at left is again taken from an edition of La Belle Assemblée, but this time from 1813. The Spencer jacket itself bears very little resemblance to the lines of the bodice of the matching dress which it covers; instead it looks more like a modern day shrug or bolero jacket in its cut, with the swooping line from the neck to the back of the garment.

This example is also trimmed with fur, denoting it clearly as a winter garment and showing its versatility when used in different forms. It also has a military design to its trimmings, recalling the military career of the garment's creator, Earl Spencer.

Walking Dress with Spencer, from Almanach des Modes, 1814.
Walking Dress with Spencer, from Almanach des Modes 1814


The image left depicts a Spencer with the waist at its natural position.

Although the waist line of the dresses did raise and lower during the second decade of the nineteenth century, this is a particularly low example for such a relatively early date.

It is taken from the 1814 edition of Almanach des Modes, a yearly publication by Horace Vernet, which contained plates of "Incroyables" and "Merveilleuses". It is, therefore, perhaps a slight exaggeration upon reality, but it nevertheless shows that the Spencer style continued to be used as the waist lowered.

This particular example does, however, again show a Spencer which follows the lines of the bodice, as seen above.

 

 


 

The following photographs of extant Spencers are provided with the express permission and courtesy of VintageTextile.com

A Quilted Spencer

This Spencer is particularly unusual as it is made from quilted silk satin. The Spencers seen in the fashion plates above, as with the gowns of the period, could have been made from wool, linen, cotton or silk, but extant Spencers, in my experience, are generally made from wool or a wool-silk mix, unless they are specifically for evening or summer wear. This Spencer, as we can tell from its collar, weight and long sleeves, is meant for outdoor wear in cool weather.

We can see how this Spencer has been constructed in a similar way to gowns of the period. The two pale green linen strips tie at the centre front and act much in the same way as they do on drop front or front closing style gowns. This method of construction reduces strain on the main body of the garment and the front button fastenings, as well as keeping it all in place.

Quilted Satin Spencer Quilted Satin Spencer - Inside
© Vintage Textiles © Vintage Textiles

 

 

A Summer Muslin Spencer

 

Muslin Spencer
© Vintage Textiles

This second extant Spencer is at the opposite end of the scale to the quilted one examined above.

 

This example was made for use as a light jacket over a gown during the summer months. The ribbon and buttons on this example are later nineteenth century replacements, but the effect is similar.

This Spencer is an extant example of the style generally used in films and more commonly reproduced, however what makes it original and interesting is the fabric and embroidery. It would probably have been worn over a short sleeved, low-necked gown to keep off the chill on a summer evening, without the need for a cumbersome shawl.


The fine embroidery on this example also denote it as a Spencer which most certainly would not have been worn when the lady was going for walks, as they are often depicted as being used for in film and TV. This is particularly the case with the embroidery around the cuffs , which shows no sign of damage from heavy use.

It is also possible to see in this image that the embroidery has been worked upon the pieces before they have been sewn together, as the pattern does not quite match up.

 

Spencer front
© Vintage Textiles
Close up of closure
© Vintage Textiles

Spencer Back

© Vintage Textiles

Close up of sleeve head
© Vintage Textiles
Cuff detail
© Vintage Textiles
Front of cuff
© Vintage Textiles

 

 

Adapting Spencer Patterns to Create the Unusual

There are many commercial Spencer patterns on the market at the moment, both from the big pattern retailers and the smaller historical pattern sellers. Many of these are usable as a base from which to draft a more unusual Spencer pattern. For example, the yellow Spencer from La Belle Assemblée 1815 can easily be reproduced by dropping the waist of the pattern and adding a shallow dip to the centre front, and possibly the centre back as well.

1819 Journal des Dames
1819 Journal des Dames

A similar Spencer to the quilted satin one above can be achieved by attaching a band around the bottom of the Spencer and the front tabs to the lining, especially as there are patterns available already with a similar style of collar. The quilting itself is more time consuming to achieve, but would certainly be an outstanding garment. Of course, the simplest way to make an unusual Spencer is to use a more unusual fabric, such as that used to make the muslin Spencer.

Of course, the Spencers examined above are just a very small selection of the huge variety of Spencers seen in both fashion plates and extant garments.

 

Pleated peplums, like that seen on the riding habit in Janet Arnold's 'Patterns of Fashion 1' are also found. Indeed, Anne Elliot wears such a Spencer in the 1995 production of Persuasion, a particularly good film in that it includes some more uncommon styles of garment. Other Spencer styles seen in period prints and garments include examples which were open to the waist, have intricately piped detail to the sleeve head or were double breasted.

This variety of examples in historical sources makes the Spencer a garment with as-yet great untapped potential for reproduction.

 

 


mantle_iconMuch like the Spencer and the Pelisse, individuality of design amongst reproductions of the cloak (and all its variants) is often entirely overlooked. Simple and practical to wear, it is often seen reproduced in its plainest, most practical form as an accompaniment to many a re-enactors’ wardrobe.

This is perhaps unsurprising, as the cloak is often viewed as a poor relation to other, more complex garments. The simplicity of its design also means that it is a very easy garment to make, with little or no need for fitting.

However, there are more complex and unusual examples available to provide inspiration to more experienced seamstresses to create elaborate 'high fashion' cloaks. Little research appears to have been undertaken into these more unusual cloaks, capes, mantles and wraps, and they can certainly provide a more challenging and exciting project than it would initially appear.

 

The Practical Cloak

The image below (Plate 1) demonstrates how effortless, and yet striking, the addition of even a simple cloak can be to an outfit. The bright red wool cloaks seen here are typical of the period, and would have been an obligatory item. The easy extra warmth they provide, especially in the country, was invaluable.

They could have been worn over a Spencer or Pelisse as well as the dress itself. This also helped to protect any fancier clothing being worn underneath, as the thick sturdy wool of the cloak could easily have been brushed off when dry.

Diana Sperling, 1816, Mrs Hurst Dancing
Plate 1. Watercolour by Diana Sperling from Mrs Hurst Dancing 1816 depicting two ladies wearing red wool capes in the country

 

These cloaks often had hoods, and were generally lined. The hoods were cut large enough so that they would fit over the bonnet, which provides the additional convenience of protecting delicate straw or silk bonnets from the elements. The red colour seen in the Sperling watercolour was particularly stylish and fashionable, and certainly makes the cloak stand out, even though it is frequently seen amongst reproductions.

However, cloaks were also seen in many other colours, with references to blue and brown cloaks being the most frequent. They were also directly translated into a more fashionable garment simply by using lightweight silk or velvet. These often followed exactly the same lines as more practical woolen cloaks, but the expensive fabrics and trimmings transformed the garment into more of a fashion statement.

Unfortunately, very few extant examples exist, as such a practical garment was often patched, remade and recycled. Indeed, many a cloak of the Regency period likely had a former life as an earlier, and larger, Georgian cloak. This means that much of what we can learn about their construction is speculation, informed by references in letters and wills. The style and construction techniques, however, changed very little between periods for this simplest style of cloak.

 

Unusual Cloaks

 

Short blue velvet cloak, 1802 Ladys Monthly Museum
Plate 2. A short blue velvet and white fur cape from the Lady's Monthly Museum of 1802

 

 

The simple cloak can easily be adapted into something a little more unusual, but still equally authentic. The image left (Plate 2) shows a short, blue velvet cape lined with white fur.

This very luxurious garment is remarkably simple in design, and yet creates a dramatic addition to the outfit when paired with the white gown. In this image, it appears to be used almost as a wrap, with much the same purpose as a Spencer in that it acts like a modern cardigan would. This sort of garment would also be suitable for evening wear, unlike the Pelisse it is pictured with.

 

 

 

 

 

Following the Fashion: Cloaks and Mantles in Fashion Plates

Fashion Plates, such as those depicted here (Plates 2 to 8), are one of the most effective ways of researching varying styles in cloaks, due to the relative rarity of extant examples.

 

 

Plate 3. A bright orange cloak with a hood from c.1809

This example depicts a brightly coloured orange cloak with a hood. This cloak is much like the practical cloaks examined above, however the curved cut to the front on the cloak, and the exciting and vibrant colour, make this cloak stand out.

Orange cloak, 1809

Plate 4 A fashion plate depicting a couple skating from c.1807

This fashion plate depicts a couple ice skating. The short red cape that the lady wears is trimmed with a fringe, creating a shawl like appearance. Little additions of trims such as this give cloaks and capes a lot more individuality. The cape drops to a rounded point at the back.

Couple skating, 1807

Plate 5. A black lace cloak, used for day wear, from c. 1809

This next image (Plate 5) is a particularly unusual example. The cut of the cloak itself is very simple, just like the practical cloaks detailed above, but cut a little longer. What makes this example remarkable is the fine black lace from which it is made. This cloak, it would appear, was designed purely for the sake of fashion, as this thin lace would have little success at keeping the wearer warm. That the lady depicted is also carrying a parasol perhaps indicated that it was intended for summer wear.

Black lace cloak, 1809

Plate 6. A blue satin Witzchoura Mantle trimmed with white fur

In around 1808 the fashion for the Witzchoura Mantle, which was imported from Poland, began to spread. This style of mantel finished a little above the hem of the gown, was fur lined, and had larger, more billowing sleeves than a normal mantle. The example pictured here (Plate 6) is made in light blue silk satin and lined with white fur. This garment is both practical and beautifully fashionable, making it a very suitable garment for reproduction.

Blue satin mantle, 1821

Plate 7. A red Mantle with a short cape

In the image right (Plate 7) it is possibly easier to see how the mantle style can be reproduced. The mantle itself follows the lines of a simple cloak, but the addition of two bound slits, roughly a third of the way down the side front of the cloak, instantly make the garment more unusual and give it more interest. This particular example (Plate 7) also has the addition of a short shoulder cape, in much the same style as is seen on practical men’s Great Coats, to help protect the wearer from the rain.

 

A red Mantle with a short cape, 1827

Plate 8. A 1797 plate depicting two ladies wearing wraps

The fashion plate right (Plate 8) depicts a wrap, a very interesting alternative to the cape, which is particularly suitable for earlier in the Regency period. This particular example dates to c. 1797.

The wrap itself is simply a long rectangle of fabric trimmed with a frill. This could be worn loosely over the shoulders like a shawl, or alternatively a ribbon could be tied around the waist of the dress, acting like a belt to pull the wrap in at the waist. This look is particularly stylish. The frill and fabric of these wraps can be made from a wide variety of different fabrics and laces. The simplest wraps are made from the same thin muslins that were fashionable for the gowns of the period, with a frill of the same. Others are made in light weight silks with deeps lace frills, like the one depicted here. They are also occasionally made from printed cottons.

 

1797, Ladies wearing wraps

 

An Extant Light Blue Silk and Embroidered Muslin Mantle

 

Pictured here (Plate 9) is an extant example of a mantle from the Regency period. It belongs to the Fashion Museum in Bath, and is made of pale blue, lightweight silk, overlaid with white worked muslin with a lace trim. This immensely elegant and rich looking garment is an excellent example of what can be achieved even with so simple a garment as a cloak.

The mantle consists of three main parts. The main cloak body is ankle length and piped around the hem. It is gathered onto a yoke, which is hidden under the shoulder cape. It also has small arm slits, indicated by small lace edged flaps, enabling greater flexibility of movement. It is these arm slits which classify it as a mantle. Over the main cloak is a short shoulder length cape, as seen in the fashion plate depicting a red mantle with a short cape (Plate 7). This feature is also seen on Pelisses and Redingotes of the period. There is also a short collar, again lace edged. This collar follows the lines of the shoulder cape, accentuating its shape.

 

Front of Bath Cloak Detail of shoulder on Bath Cloak
Plate 9. A light blue silk and muslin evening cape © Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council Plate 10. A detail of the collar of the light blue muslin evening cape, showing the collar © Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

 

In the image above (Plate 10), we can see that the garment ties with blue silk ribbons at the neck, much as the open Pelisses did in the first part of this series.We can also see the lightly gathered lace edging in more detail. The cape and collar are also piped around the edge, as can be seen here. The flap over the arm slit is also piped and lace edged, as well as having a bow in the same blue ribbon as the tie.

 

Detail of hem on Bath Cloak
Plate 11. A detail of the piped hem of the blue silk and muslin cape © Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

 

The image left (Plate 11) depicts the piping at the hem of the cloak.

It also shows the two contrasting fabrics used in this garment: the whiteworked muslin and the pale blue silk.

The muslin has a cutwork flower pattern worked over it at regular intervals. This allows the shimmer of the blue silk to sparkle through in the candlelight. A very similar effect was achieved on the yellow silk and muslin pelisse detailed in the first part of this series.

 

 

Reproducing Cloaks, Capes, Mantles and Wraps

As stated previously, cloaks are possibly one of the easiest garments to reproduce, due to the lack of fitting involved and the simplicity of each piece of the pattern. There is a vast range of commercial patterns available, but it is also a very easy pattern to draft yourself. Adding collars and shoulder capes, like those on the extant mantle here, instantly give some structural interest.

When making a mantle, make sure there is lots of room in the body of the garment. This can be achieved by gathering the fabric onto a yoke which is hidden under a shoulder cape, a construction technique seen on some extant examples including the Fashion Museum's mantle.

All these examples prove that there is far more to a cloak than a practical wool garment to keep out the chill. It can be a fashion statement, just like any other garment, and add an instant splash of glamour and style to a simple Regency gown.

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