The HSF Challenge #20: Outerwear

As I write this, New Zealand is deep in the grip of winter, and my life is about layers of merino knits, warm scarves, fur-lined gloves, and heavy coats.  It’s good weather to be inside with the heater running, curled under a blanket, handsewing.  By the time challenge #20 comes along in October, the weather in New Zealand will be warming up, and those of you above the equator will be cooling down, looking towards your own winter.

The midpoint of the seasons seems a good point for a challenge focused on outerwear: the layers that get added on to your basic outfit to protect you, and it, from inclement weather.  The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #20: Outerwear (due October 7th) is all about capes, camails and crespins, scarves, sweaters and spencers, burnouses, balmacaans and bosom friends, muffs, mantles and mittens, pardessuses, pelisses and pelerines.  In other words, anything you put over everything else.

To get you thinking about it, here are a few of my favourite outerwear inspiration images:

Hood from Greenland, 14th century, Danish National Museum, Copenhagen

Hood from Greenland, 14th century, Danish National Museum, Copenhagen

Isn’t this hood fantastic?  Isn’t it darling?  Can’t you imagine how warm and snuggly it would be over a cloak.  I wonder what colour it was originally.

It’s mostly the fabric that makes me drool, but even in plain velvet the shape of Eleanor’s cloak would fabulous.  It’s stunning with her frock, but I can also imagine it over a modern evening dress.  And I want it!

You know what makes 17th century men’s fashion fabulous?  Capes.  17th century capes are amazing (because without them, 17th century men’s fashion is just one big giggle-fest).  The heavy metallic trim on this cape is just delicious.  Can you imagine how it would move when worn by some swashbuckling hero?

Fashion plate with ermine and ermine-patterned fabric, 1770s

Fashion plate with ermine and ermine-patterned fabric, 1770s

This fashion plate is my favourite thing ever (at least for this week).  It’s so ridiculous it has come out the other side to wonderful.  The black and white colour scheme!  The ermine trim, with little ermine tails dangling off the bow, the muff, the fur-patterned fabric.  Oooooh…I love it!

Speaking of fabulously ridiculous…

The sawtooth edges!  The pompoms!

Child's cape.  Twilled peacock blue woollen cloth, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream tassel on the hood; Anglo-Indian, 1860-70, V&A

Child’s cape. Twilled peacock blue woollen cloth, embroidered in cream silk thread, with a cream tassel on the hood; Anglo-Indian, 1860-70, V&A

And finally, the child’s burnous which everyone loved so much when I posted it.  It’s not hard to see why!


  1. I *love* the men’s cape! I told DH I was going to make him one like that and he gave a definite but unfortunate “No.” Arguing that the even the dog – who certainly doesn’t need one – has a cape didn’t work either.

  2. I love the hood and the child’s cape! Maybe I’ll try making another hood though to see if I can improve since the last one I made…hmmm…

  3. karenb says

    I like the hood from Greenland and yes I agree men”s clothes look much better with capes.

  4. That hood is darling, and I want it.

    That 18th century fashion plates reminds me irresisitibly of Cruella De Vill… or perhaps her sister who’s not Cruella… the lady looks too nice to be the former. 😀

  5. Susan says

    I love the Regency wrap! I’ve been trying to find some over-the-top outer wear suitable for formal Regency events…I think I’ve found it. And a formidable challenge, as well.
    I’m a new reader and subscriber and can’t wait to go back through the archived posts. Are the challenges open to everyone?

  6. Yaaaaay! Outerwear is awesome!
    I live in Canada, so I’m really looking forward to this challenge!

    I absolutely love liripipe hoods, they’re like hats, scarves, and capelets all rolled into one.
    I made one about a year ago out of a grey wool blanket that I dyed green. It looks sort of like the one from Greenland, but with a longer liripipe, big scallops around the hem, and a lot of little ball buttons down the front. It’s kind of awkward to wear with a backpack, but very warm.

    I’m jealous of the nice cold weather you’re getting. It’s all hot and sunny and icky here now.

  7. Yan Jing's family says

    Eleanor’s cloak is lovely. I have been away from The Dreamstress ; pulled away by other projects and trying to catch up in the garden before it is too hot. Now, it’s hot. Inward bound time, perfect time to be inspired by your blog. Hand sewing is a wonderful idea. So peaceful. I have a beautiful 1920s sewing machine that does not work, so I will search your blog about hand sewing tips. Thanks.

  8. ooh, I was hoping to make a cape/cloak for winter so this will fit in.

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