Object name

Date made


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A black silk cape from the 1890s with decorative cut outs, beading, and frills.

Content description

1890s black silk cape with beads, bows, frills, and cut outs. The collar and front of the cape feature ruffles. Down the front, along the shoulders, and across the back runs a pattern of beadwork roses and leaves worked onto net. Down the centre of the cape's back this beadwork pattern morphs into a geometric series of lines and wheel shapes. The beads appear to be jet. The main body of the cape is a silk base with a secondary layer of decorative cut outs edged with couched silk cord. Designs include vertical stripes with loops arranged in the spaces on the upper half of the cape, interspersed with four scrolling plant-like sections. Across the centre of the cape is a zigzag band with scrolling beadwork forms running horizontally. Below this the vertical stripes return with bars in the spaces rather than loops. There are two harp motifs set between the lower stripes. The frill has been enclosed in conservation net.

The cape is lined with dark grey moiré taffeta with black pin stripes. Four separate panels are used to achieve the shape and there is a matching hanging hook at the neck. The leading edge of the lining is plain black silk.

Capes of this kind, which ended at approximately the hips and floated over the period's gigot sleeves, were popular in the 1890s for evening wear and day wear. The black silk could suggest either evening wear or mourning wear. It is hip length and has a ruffle that runs around the hem, up the front edges and around the collar. There are hooks for a close fit around the neck and three hooks at the upper front closing. This is a high quality cape most likely bought in a shop or made by a professional garment maker rather than an individual in the home. It lacks any tags or labels.


width: 87cm
length: 69cm





Catalogue number

© Royal School of Needlework