Mantles- 1880s Style

When building a period wardrobe, outerwear such as mantles are often overlooked even though they were a key element in just about any lady’s wardrobe. Broadly speaking, mantles are a lineal descendant of cloaks and shawls and as such, are basically a more refined version of these loose garments, designed to follow the lines of the underlying dress. One of the most distinctive characteristics of 1880s mantles was that the front was cut significantly longer than in the read in order to accommodate the bustle/train of the dress. To begin, here’s an example from circa 1875 made from a Kashmir/Paisley shawl:

Mantle, c. 1875; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.85)

Kashmir/Paisley shawls were extremely popular as outerwear during the 1850s and 1860s but were not always the easiest to wear due to their large size and especially with a trained dress. Many of these older shawls were converted to more manageable mantles during the 1870s. The above example is relatively loose which goes together with some of the exaggerated bustles/trains characteristic of early 1870s styles. Here’s an example from circa 1884 that continues this trend:

Mantle, c. 1884; Victoria and Albert Museum (T.43-1957)

But the choice of fabric was not limited to Kashmir/Paisley; other fabrics were utilized with velvet being a major favorite:

Mantle, c. 1880s; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.50.36)

The above example is a more loosely fitted example with wide sleeves and a lot of ease in the front. In the example below, we see a more tailored version with a peplum running along the bottom. In this profile, one can see that the back is cut to accommodate the prominent bustle characteristic of the later 1880s. Also, one can see a more structured, rigid sleeve setting the lower arm at a 90 degree angle; this was often referred to as a “sling sleeve.”

Mantle, c. 1885; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.299-1983)

The mantle front often had a long length as with this example:

Pingat, Mantle, c. 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.337)

Pingat, Mantle, c. 1891; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.337)

To get a better idea of scale, here’s a picture of the mantle being worn over a dress:

View of mantle worn over a dress.

And for something a little different, here’s an illustration from the January 1880 issue of Peterson’s Magazine:

Here we see a mantle with the cylindrical silhouette characteristic of the Mid-Bustle Era. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any actual extant examples so illustrations will have to do. Here’s a couple more variations on the basic design:

The above is just a mere fraction of the possibilities with mantles- with just one or two basic shapes, one can create a wide variety of mantles utilizing all manner of fabrics and trim and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing in the future. 🙂

New Offerings From 1878…

Peacock blue taffeta and black silk velvet with scallops and knife pleats for when you want to look like a fashion plate from 1878, the foundation skirt has a built-in tournure like the original it was patterned from in our museum collection! After the trunk show sale in Tombstone this weekend, it will be offered on our website…if it doesn’t go to a lucky new home!