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The Decorative function of an Edwardian cape

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The Decorative function of an Edwardian cape

'The cutwork and embroidered art nouveau style design coupled with it’s delicate colour make this a work of art in it’s own right'

I just love looking at this beautiful caplet. The cutwork and embroidered art nouveau style design coupled with it’s delicate colour make this a work of art in it’s own right. I think it is with garments such as this where the original function of the clothing becomes particularly detached as something this decorative is so rarely worn on a day to day basis today. Capes are also one of the garments that have become more or less redundant in a modern wardrobe as the restrictive nature of their design makes them impractical for daily wear. But how and when would this beautiful garment have been worn in a time where the more impractical a woman's wardrobe was, the higher her social status was likely to be?  

 

 

Being made of wool cloth, it is fair to speculate that this was a winter garment and must have offered the wearer some degree of warmth. However, from it's short length and multitude of cut work gaps in the fabric, this clearly served more of a fashionable purpose than a functional one. The light colour and wool material also suggests that this was a day time garment as darker colours and in more delicate fabrics such as silk and velvet were usually reserved for evening and occasion wear such as the example below: 

 

Evening Mantlet, Henriette Favre, France, Paris, 1902, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

 

So how would this highly decorative and rather impractical garment have looked when worn as part of an ensemble? Was it a garment in it’s own right or did it originally have matching garments? Well I have compiled a collection of images that offer an idea about how it would have looked.

 

Fashion Plate from c. 1890

 

White dress with cape, hat, and parasol ensemble, c. 1905

 

A cape and skirt, published in the Delineator, 1897

 

A cape and skirt ensemble, published in the Delineator, April 1897

 

 

Written by Hannah Mays Chandler for Dressedinhistory.com. Please do not cite this work without the explicit permission of Dressed in History. 

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