Inspiration: The general fabulousness of red wool cloaks (also, piles of snow!)
Pattern: Drafted from Costume Close-Up, #10, Cloak, c. 1750-1810, in the Colonial Williamsburg collection (#1953-968), p 54-56 and color plate 2, with a slight alteration and additional piecing due to yardage constraints
Fabric: Just over two yards of 60-odd-inch-wide coating-weight wool flannel in vivid scarlet red, pieced within an inch of its life
Lining: Front edge facings and hood lining of black silk habotai
Thread: Plain cotton thread in matching red and in black (I couldn’t afford silk)
Closure: Two inch wide black silk satin ribbons which tie at the neck, purchased from Timely Tresses
Construction: Entirely hand-sewn
Fun fact: I had to do quite a bit of piecing in order to get away with using the fabric I had, but it’s really quite difficult to see, because the pieces of fulled wool are butted up against one another and overcast. The original had one bit of piecing, making an ostensibly 4-piece pattern actually five pieces. Mine was nine pieces. When I finished cutting out the fabric, I had literally only a handful of amassed scrap material leftover – of heavy coating-weight wool. Seriously.
Current Status: Finished! (Update! Now with photos to prove it! 3/25/12)
(Never mind the later period reproduction quilted petticoat under the cloak. My mannequin looked creepy and naked with only the cloak on, so it is wearing my c. mid 18th century to early 19th century repro cloak with my 1830s-1850s repro quilted petticoat. Which also clashes slightly. Shh, moving on.)
Current Status, in more detail: (Update May 1, 2011) The cloak is now entirely finished! After the ribbon arrived from Timely Tresses, I cut lengths of it and stitched it to the front edges of the cloak. I then proceeded to run around the house in the cloak, in spite of the fact that it’s now full spring and quite warm out. Despite how very unseasonable it now is, I’m very fond of the cloak. Although I must admit that the shaping, which is the same as the shaping of the original in Costume Close-Up, drapes more nicely on people with a slighter build, and narrower shoulders, than I have. Nevertheless, I can and will wear it.
(Status update from April 24, 2011) Happily, the cloak is essentially finished. Unhappily, it has been essentially finished for months. It came together quite quickly initially, due to a confluence of events involving winter inspiration, falling in love with the extant cloak depicted in Costume Close-Up, discovering that I had the perfect wool already, fiendish determination to find a way to cut the pattern out of not-nearly-enough fabric, an epic patterning and cutting effort, and conveniently timed illness that gave me four days of complete uselessness during which I was somehow still capable of executing tiny, perfect hand-stitches. (I don’t believe in feigning modesty about my hand-sewing skills. I am, in fact, quite vain about my hand-sewing.) I was able to construct the cloak, which is made of a coating-weight red wool flannel, with a lining for the hood and facings for the front edges, out of black silk habotai. Both of these things I had on hand, and I was able to buy matching red cotton thread.
But could I get my hands on black silk ribbon? No, I could not. Silk ribbons are notoriously difficult to find, and I was quite unwilling to use synthetic substitutes on a garment that I had spent an astonishing number of hours painstakingly constructing, entirely by hand (including nearly-invisible piecing to get the most out of my scant yardage), of high-quality natural fibers. For such a heavy garment, I didn’t want to try faking ribbons using my habotai. I didn’t have any black silk taffeta on hand, or I might have considered using that. The poor cloak has had to wait until I got around to ordering my millinery supplies – because I was able to buy black silk satin ribbon from Timely Tresses, along with everything needful for my charmingly enormous 1830s bonnet. The order has finally been placed, and with luck, the ribbon will arrive soon, and I will attach it to the cloak in short order. Then it will have ties! Once it has ties, I’ll be able to put it on, and will cut the arm slits. I marked them already, but I want to make certain they’re in the right place.
Further information online:
- A very similar red wool cloak posted on the site Shays’ Rebellion & the Making of Nation, along with a diagram of the piecing for that cloak (linked by the 18th Century Notebook), which coincidentally looks very similar to how I pieced mine! How reassuring.
- 18th (and early 19th) century outerwear, including a selection of links to various red wool cloaks: 18th Century Women’s Cloaks & Mantles – an excellent list of links at the 18th Century Notebook
- An article on 18th century cloaks at La Couturière Parisienne.
- Another article on 18th century cloaks, at 18th Century New England Life.
- A reproduction Cardinal Red Cloak at Historically Dressed.
- Collected 18th century images involving “Cloaks” by Nicole at Diary of a Mantua Maker
- Baumgarten, Linda, and John Watson, with Florine Carr. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Patterns 1750-1790. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2000. In association with Quite Specific Media Group Ltd., New York and Hollywood.
It was surprisingly easy to figure out how to put this cloak together – a great deal of information gets packed into the entries in this book! I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I wish there were more resources like this for the 19th century! See the annotated bibliography entry for more information. The cloak is on pages 54-56 and color plate 2.
- Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt. Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870: Essays inspired by the collections at Platt Hall, The Gallery of English Costume, Manchester. Carno, Powys, Wales: Laura Ashley Limited, 1983.
There is an example of a similar cloak pictured on page 53, with substantial accompanying information on that cloak, a particularly fine example, and red cloaks in general, on page 54. It is noted (without citation) that “It would be typical Sunday best for an English village woman from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. After that date. the younger element were more likely to wear mantles, pelisses and shawls, and the scarlet cloak became an old woman’s garment by the 1830’s” (page 54).
Last updated March 25, 2012, to add pictures.