Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fit for a Winter Princess: An Embroidered Silk Mantle, c. 1880s

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Isabella reporting,

With many of us in the Northern Hemisphere shivering with the January cold, this elegant mantle, or cloak, seems like a most stylish way to keep warm.

Included in the recent exhibition of embroidery, The Diligent Needle, at Winterthur Museum, this cloak is made of quilted, cream-colored silk and trimmed with white feathers (which have been replaced.) The silk is embroidered with a pattern of flowers and swirling plume-like leaves, and the embroidery in turn is embellished further with crystal beads. These are dimmed somewhat in the photograph, but in person they glitter like diamonds, or perhaps icy snow.

According to the exhibition label:

This mantle, which was embroidered by professionals, bears the label of the label of the Lewis & Allenby firm, one of the largest silk mercers in London. The firm had large premises on Regent Street and Conduit Street, both areas that catered to wealthy shoppers. Known for their high-quality goods, Lewis & Allenby sold garments to Queen Victoria, who granted them the right to state on their label: "Cloak Makers to the Queen."

This style mantle, with a tailored shoulder flaring out dramatically at the hem, was a popular shape in the 1880s; the fashion plate, left, shows similar fashions worn for day. Designed to accommodate the pronounced bustles in fashion in the 1880s, the mantle would have draped gracefully around the body, and at the same time provided a dramatic yet simple shape for the richly textured embroidery.

See the Winterthur page here for more photos and details.

Above: Mantle, probably made in London, 1880s, silk & beads on silk, reproduction feather edging. Winterthur Museum.
Below: Detail, Les Modes Parisiennes, "An Afternoon Musicale", Peterson's Magazine, December, 1888.


Lillian Marek said...

Oh that's gorgeous! Imagine how glamorous you would feel wearing that mantle.

Anonymous said...

I saw this cape when I went to Winterthur to see the Downton Abbey Costumes. It was so lovely, it could have been worn by one of the Crawley ladies!

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