Going Out- Opera Capes

Going to the opera, or any formal occasion, required the right outerwear and especially in colder weather. Outerwear during the late 19th Century could range from short capelets all the day to full-on coats and naturally, each couturier had ideas on outerwear styles. Here’s just one style, in this case a circa 1890 opera case that was made by Jacques Doucet:

Doucet, Opera Cape, c. 1890; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1995.177.2)

This cape is constructed from a gold silk floral patterned brocade and trimmed along the collar and shoulders with fur. The capelet and lining appear to be be a yellow/gold silk, probably a satin but it’s hard to tell from the picture- unfortunately, there are no further details on the construction or materials used.

Now, although couturiers often convinced their clients that garments were custom designs made just for them, this wasn’t always the case as with this second opera cape that was also made by Doucet about the same time:

Doucet, Opera Case, c. 1900s; Whitaker Auctions

Unfortunately, no other photos are available but it’s safe to say that it appears to have been constructed of a copper and black silk brocade with a floral paisley-like pattern motif. The collar and shoulders are also trimmed in fur and the top capelet is in a gray/lavender silk satin- it’s probably the same as the lining if the first example is any guide. The above two capes are an interesting style and definitely worthy of reconstruction. 🙂



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