Last autumn, I made a new cloak to accompany me to one of my first historical outings, a reenactor’s market. It took place in early October, so my blue wool cloak was too warm and my new linen spencer was a bit too airy. So I went out hunting for a medium-weight, cozy fabric and found just the thing on sale: a dark red felted cotton. It is not really a felt but has a soft, woolly surface texture that leans more towards flannel. Hard to describe, really. I am still no entirely sure whether it would have been used in period, but the color persuaded me to go for it.
In the early Regency era, cardinal red walking cloaks were all the rage. They had already been a fashion item during Georgian times so their passing on into the next century posed a bit of an anachronism. The construction stayed about the same over time, but I have the impression that cloaks became a bit “leaner” in design as they moved on into Regency. The pattern I used was the free walking cloak pattern from the Jane Austen Center. I saved it a long time ago, before they chose to make this content registration only. It is still strange to me why they did this, but I will let that be their business… ;)
All in all, the pattern is not very complicated. The body is a semi-circle with a radius of 150 cm. Being a bit short, my semi-circle has a radius of 130 cm, minus 12 cm for a round neck-opening. I drew the circle directly on the fabric. To make drawing and cutting easier, I took a 260 cm long and 130 cm wide fabric piece and folded it lengthwise before I started. Here is the finished body on the dress form.
Afterwards I made up a hood with a self-fabric lining. Then I simply gathered the neckline and sandwiched it between those two layers.
The hood shape more or less follows Marquise’s instructions for an 18th-century mantelet; with the exception that the top corner is rounded off and not clipped. After learning how to make proper radial pleats during the baby cap project for my cousins, I decided to add a few. They came out lovely:
One thing that did not really come out well was the trim. I had made up some hand-gathered ruffles from looong strips of fabric. They started at about 5 times their finished length (wow!) They turned out too heavy, meddling with the hang of the cloak. Since they looked so pretty and a lot of time had gone into making them, I kept them around for future projects. We will see what becomes of them. ;)
The finished product ties with 2.5 cm seam tape in a matching shade of red. It is all rather plain now, but a real joy to wear. It coordinated well with my working-class costume and kept me warm all day.
Some of the people I met on the road to the event took an interest and started telling me about their friends or family who also wear cloaks at LARP events. I was not really prepared for this. So I told them some more about my costume and fashion in the early Regency era in general. Most were a little surprised that cloaks had still been a thing in the 19th century.
I am glad they know now, because cloaks, from any period, are one of my absolute favorite things to make. They are easy and pretty addictive. That being said, I *might* be working on the next one already; this time from a period where you would not really expect it. I will tell you some more about it in the upcoming planning post for 2017. That is, once I have made sense of my notes at last. It will not be long now… ;)
Until very soon, Nessa