And Now For Another Cape…

Today, we have another interesting cape for your viewing pleasure. This particular cape was made circa 1893-1895 and definitely epitomizes high ’90s style:

Cape Jacket, c. 1893 – 1895; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.11-1932)

And let’s take a look at a few close-ups of the rear:

Close-up of the decorative trim pattern.

This cape is an interesting style with plain cape of red velvet combined with a decorated smaller over-cape and collar consisting of panels of black beaded lace applique. The same appliques also run along with hem of the cape and finished off with a red silk ribbon running down the front. It’s an interesting combination. Interestingly enough, this cape was made in India by a one “Mrs. Ball of Umballa & Kasauli,” no doubt a concern that catered to the European trade in the British India of the time. We hope you’ve enjoyed looking at this example of 1890s cape style and we look forward to finding more examples to post here.

Capes & Capelets In The 1890s

During the 1890s, the cape evolved from a traditional article of outerwear into a major fashion item in its own right, transcending the purely practical and evolving into a fashion work of art. Moreover, because of the loose sizing and easy construction, capes especially lent themselves to mass production and retailers offered them in a variety of styles as can be seen from this 1895 French advertisement:

Or this 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog:

And of course, nothing would be complete without some extant examples starting with this relatively functional but highly decorated cape with Medici collar:

Cape c. 1890s; Thierry de Maigret auction website.

The body appears to have been made from a finer wool, probably a worsted or perhaps a cashmere but it’s hard to tell without a closer examination. But what really makes what would otherwise be an ordinary cape stand out is the extensive soutache pattern running across the length of the cloak and collar. Here’s a couple more examples in the same vein:

Cape, c. 1890s; Kerry Taylor Auction Website

Besides wool, velvet/velvet plush was another favorite base fabric:

And cape designs could be very elaborate:

Evening Cape, c. 1900; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1976.318.16)

The piecing of the fabric pieces at the back is simply amazing and the design effect is incredible. Here’s a side profile that shows the collar to good effect:

Here’s a close-up of the collar:

Finally, we have this example that incorporates extensive lace and beading over silk velvet:

A. Walles, Capelet, c. 1895; Auction Website

And here’s a close-up  of the lace and beading:

Below are some unique views of a cape that are usually omitted. It’s interesting to see how it’s all laid out:


Here’s a view of the collar, laid out flat:

And the whole cape laid out flat:

We hope you have enjoyed this short excursion into the world of 1890s capes. In future posts, we’ll be posting more about this fascinating garment.

1898 Opera Cape

A because we’ve been focusing on 1890s capes recently…here’s a picture from 1898:

Woman Wearing Opera Cape, 1898; Powerhouse Museum (P3576-22), Sydney, Australia.

This picture is interesting in that the woman is wearing what appears to be either a waist or a light bodice. Also, the skirt appears to be of a watered silk moire fabric. One advantage of the 1890s short capes was that they simply draped over the shoulders, thus no interference from the sleeve heads which could be quite large during the Mid-1890s.

A Cape From Maison Pingat

Capes were a major fashion during the 1890s and were made both for exclusive haute couture as well as the mass market. Below is one example of a cape made by Maison Pingat sometime circa 1891-1893:

Pingat, Cape, c. 1891-1893; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.60.6.8)

A look at the interior.

Side Profile

This case is constructed out of black silk velvet with fur trim and panels of silver metallic beading running along the collar, front, and back. In many respects, it’s reminiscent of decoration found on church vestments. The use of a wide strip of fur trim on the front is interesting in that it appears to be a fixed panel with two separate arm openings. We would have loved to be able to examine the construction more closely because it certainly seems to be a bit more sophisticated design than what one usually sees with capes.

Rear View

The Label.

Here’s a good look at the silk lining fabric.

Close-up of the bead embroidery.

It would appear that the beading panels were constructed separately and applied as applique panels. This design utilizes a dark black ground to show off the beading which takes center stage, drawing the eye towards the center and neckline. It’s definitely a major showpiece and bears further study. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at one of Pingat’s masterpieces.

House Dress? Wrapper? Morning Dress?


Wrapper? House Dress? Morning Dress? When it comes to these three garments, there’s a lot of overlap and it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart. One useful way to approach this is to consider the characteristics that all these garments have, or to tend to have, in common:

  • Princess Line Styling
  • Relatively Loose Fit (This can be subjective)
  • Worn At Home Either In Private Or For Social Situations

When  stripped of all their trim and lace, they become functional, stripped-down versions of day dresses characteristic of the 1880s and 90s. Also, while it envisioned that a corset wasn’t worn with these garments, that wasn’t always the case but either way, the created a less structured silhouette. The Princess line style with its lack of a defined waistline was especially useful in this endeavor.

To further illustrate, we start with this dress from circa 1879-1880:

Wrapper/House Dress, c. 1879-1880; John Bright Collection

Side Profile

Rear View

This dress has clean lines and little ornamentation except for the embroidered middle hem, cuffs, and pockets. While this dress appears to be somewhat looser than a conventional day dress, it’s clear that it was meant for wear with a corset. This dress below is more unstructured and almost could be mistaken for being a robe:

And dresses could be more structured as with this one:

House Dress, c. 1880s; University of New Hampshire Textile Library

In looking at the side profile, to a great degree it maintains the robe-like appearance although it’s much elaborately trimmed.

This one has far more ornamentation and in our opinion really is more of a day dress than a house dress per se. But, as with a lot of this, the border between something that was worn out in public versus strictly at home is blurred and it’s possible that dresses often served “double duty,” especially for those of lesser means.


In the end, probably the easiest way to distinguish between dress types is to consider the dress silhouette, style, and use of fabrics and trims. Dresses meant to be worn in the privacy of the home are more likely to be functional and not as structured as dresses that were meant to be seen in social situations in the home. Finally, we wish to note that while we don’t profess to have the definitive answer, we do hope that we’ve provided some useful tools for trying to distinguish between dress types while acknowledging that there’s bound to be inconsistencies. Stay tuned for more!