Continuing my report on my recent trip to the Historic Paine Estate, the Oaks,* I call on our fashion historians to play Sherlock Holmes.
The majority of items in the Oaks’ collection have very little historical information attached. In all too many cases, we know only the name of the donor—and sometimes not even that. In the way of clues, Jennifer Willson, who is working on organizing the vast treasure trove, has this to say: “ ... the bulk of these items were donated in the early days of the chapter after the purchase of the Oaks in 1914, so from a 1910 or 1920 standpoint, the items were considered "old." I can only assume that they were the former possessions of the mothers and grandmothers of those women and date them that way, since belongings tend to scatter to the wind after more than a generation or two.”
So that seems to put us in the Victorian era for the majority of the collection, but which part of that lengthy era (1837-1901) is the question.
This beautiful cape or mantelet or mantilla or pelerine or _______________? is today’s mystery item. The black has faded somewhat, but otherwise it seems to be in very good condition. It might have been worn as mourning, or simply as fashionable black. The bugles and fringe make me think “mourning.” What do you think?
And where would you place it on a timeline? If I had days to spend on the research, I could probably narrow things down quite a bit, but blogging is my side job. Here’s what my researches have produced in the short time allotted.
Do we think it belongs to the 1850s, like “le Bijou” of 1855? (elsewhere in this volume of Godey’s we see “the Rosaline” and “the Raglan”) or this article for 1856.
Or is it much later?
Demonstrating the trickiness of dating such items, this one is placed between 1860-1900.
I know the ladies of the Oaks will be grateful for enlightenment—as will I and many other readers.
If you’d like to see the cape/mantelet/mantilla/pelerine in person, this year’s remaining visiting days are 12 September and 3 October 1-4PM. The DAR also holds a Christmas Open House in early December, with the Oaks dressed up for the holidays. The Historic Paine Estate, 140 Lincoln Street, Worcester, MA. For more info or special group tour scheduling, please contact the DAR Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous posts on the Historic Paine Estate, the Oaks, here and here.
Please click on images to enlarge.