Cape + pictures of Edwardian half mourning

So in addition to the hat, I also tossed together a cape, since the picnic was at a location known to be exceedingly overcast all the time and I have a tendency to get cold easily.

Years ago a friend gave me a book called 59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns. In fact, it was so long ago that when I texted that friend to tell her I finally used a pattern from it, she didn’t remember giving me the book. (Disclaimer, it is also possible I got the giver wrong. If someone else gave me the book and I don’t remember, I’m so sorry!)

A few notes about the book – the title is a bit misleading since the patterns are from 1890-1896. Also it would not be good for beginners, as it includes practically no construction instructions, just the patterns to draft up with a brief description of the fashion plate.

Success, it had a cute little half-circle cape from Spring 1895 which was exactly what I was looking for.

pattern picture

I scaled it up and cut it out of black wool from the stash.

b cape half

Half of the cape

The cape got less and less historical as I went inward. I wanted to inter-line it to get a bit more warmth, since the wool was a fairly light weight. Unfortunately, the only flannel I had is cotton, and I want to make a dress out of it. I also didn’t want to buy more fabric, so I went hunting through my stash for something with some body, and came up with this poly-satin I had used in my Elsa skirt.

a cape piecing interlining

Piecing which will be hidden on the inside.

I cut each layer out individually, since a half circle of wool is super wiggly and bias-y. This is also why I chose to do the hem by hand instead of trying to bag line it.

The cape is lined with blue silk dupioni left over from an oollld costume. I’ve got all this dupioni left but I don’t use it for historical stuff anymore, and it always feels really matronly in modern clothes, so I’m trying to use it up on linings et. It would have been better to use my black silk taffeta, but I didn’t really want to use that up here and I ended up glad I didn’t (foreshadowing!).

The pattern unfortunately did not have a collar, so I just cut out a rectangle and crossed my fingers.

And oh hey, like many of my first attempts, this thing looked terrible!

c cape doesnt fit

That collar was meant to close around my neck, but despite careful measuring it ended up too small. Which meant it dracula-d out around my neck, showing the mismatch of linings I had used.

I angsted for a day or two while making the hat, and ended up ripping out the collar, cutting down the neckline to make it bigger, drafting a shaped mandarin collar, and lining the new one with black silk in case this happened again.

Of course, then I ended up with a collar that was an inch too big. Why me?!?

If I closed the cape at the neck, the shape was such that I couldn’t pull it closed at the front. And if I closed it at the front, the neck popped open. I think the half circle isn’t big enough and the shape should really be more like a full circle. There is no way it could be like the picture in the book.

Feh. Glad I didn’t waste good fabric on this thing. And my tentative plans to add ribbon trim end here as well.

Here is the whole outfit put together:


Photo by Nana Kirk. It was so windy that my hat kept falling off. So I had to keep jamming it back on my head. Which meant my hair totally got squashed, and the hat is sitting much lower than it should.

distance carriage

All and all, not my favorite outfit, but it was pretty quick and easy to put together and looked fairly cohesive at the end. On to bigger and better things!

This entry was posted in 1890s, Edwardian half-mourning. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Cape + pictures of Edwardian half mourning

  1. I think it came out fine! And collars are my bane as well. I am actually more comfortable with sleeves than collars, and who really likes doing sleeves?

    • avantgarbe says:


      This was my first ever collar, so I’m hoping future ones (with say, a pattern, and instructions) might be easier.

      And seriously, what is it with sleeves? Evil things.

  2. Nessa says:

    It came out really well in the end, Molly. 🙂 And collars can be such a pest… just spent all weekend yelling at the uncooperative ruffled one on my chemisette. They seem to enjoy being too small or do whatever else they like. 😉

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