18th Century Pelisses
Last updated: Nov 16, 2021
A pelisse is an overgarment for well-dressed fashionable women; this is not a cloak worn by working women. The pelisse tends to be a longer and more rectangularly-constructed overgarment than a capuchin or mantelet, extending past the lady's waist, often with slits through which she can extend her arms. Rather than leaving her arms exposed, the lady often wears gloves and carries a muff.
A more thorough definition from the Galerie des Modes:
The pelisse is a type of winter overcoat that Ladies throw on their shoulders to protect themselves against the rigors of the season. There are two types, the plain and the furred. The former are worn by the unimportant middle class; the latter, of higher quality, are likely to be in the most brilliant colors and the most precious furs. Among them, there are ones that are only bordered, or to use the true terms, only have a “cord”; the body is lined with a light cotton. The others, without the cord, have a fur lining, but their weight and heat often render them uncomfortable. The cord covers it all around the edges. It surrounds the hood and finishes by outlining the pockets, or openings used to pass the arm through.
Bright yellow, blue, pink, cerise, and in the second types, white are the favored colors for pelisses. The furs are infinitely varied. Sable produces a very nice effect on bright yellow; it also agrees with cerise, and white furs contrast very agreeably with pinks, blues, and whites. These are the furred versions which, since recent reversions, have become preferred.
Pelisses were first rather short, and like mantelets they had a stopped collar; they since have taken coulisse collars and have become very ample and long; one drapes them back from the arms on each side, or simply passes the arms through the practical openings on each side. The former is more agreeable and genteel.
A domino is a silk cloak that is sometimes similar in shape to a pelisse (Met 1971.47.4), but it’s generally left untrimmed for wear as part of masquerade costume, as in this example from the Museum of London and this 1779 French fashion plate (“Jeune Dame qui ſ’estaffublée d’un grand Domino de taffetas a capuche … ”).
- Norsk Folkemuseum NF.1935-0518, quilted silk damask (Spitalfields silk woven c. 1751-1752), lined with cotton and trimmed with faux ermine
Portraits and illustrations
- Miss Marsden by Paul Sandby, c. 1752-1760
- Déshabillé of 1754 by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin
- An old lady gives a prediction to a young lady by Pehr Hilleström, c. 1775
- How do ye do, 1777
- Galerie des Modes, 11e Cahier, 2e Figure, 1778: “Middle class woman in a striped Satin Gown with a furred pelisse and a white muff … The drawing represents a middle class woman in a very ample furred pelisse with a coulisse collar, leaving the chest very uncovered and fastening under the contentement; her gloved hands escape the openings of the pelisse and come together in a drum-shaped muff, matching the fur of the pelisse.”
- Galerie des Modes, 16e Cahier, 1ere Figure, 1778: “a satin pelisse lined with fur … Half-parure, or winter négligé. This Outfit is very sought-after by Ladies, in the morning when they are obliged to go out, whether to go shopping or for some other reason. It consists of a pelisse, thrown without pretension over an elegant bedgown. The Figure shows a young Lady, dressed in a bedgown with long linen sleeves, lined with a very yellow fabric, with a matching petticoat and volant; over the whole, a vast pink pelisse with a white cordon, positioned negligently and not fastened.”
- Galerie des Modes, 16e Cahier, 2e Figure, 1778: “she wears a satin pelisse lined with fur over her deshabille … Furred pelisse with cordon, covering the body”
- Jeune Petit-Maître en peliss, 1778
- Winter, 1778-1779
- La Protestation d'amour, 1779
- Galerie des Modes, 17e Cahier, 2e Figure, 1779: “a satin pelisse lined with fur”
- Galerie des Modes, 17e Cahier, 4e Figure, 1779: “a satin pelisse trimmed with fur … Deshabillé, disguised with a satin pelisse trimmed with fur.”
- Galerie des Modes, 19e Cahier, 3e et 4e Figures, 1779: “Bourgeoise at ease in a gown of striped satin, a blue satin pelisse with a large ermine border, and a white muff”
- Mrs. Wilbraham Bootle by George Romney, 1781
- The Twelve Months: November
- An English man of war taking a French privateer (also at the British Museum), 1781
- Galerie des Modes, 37e Cahier, 3e Figure, 1781: “Grey pelisse edged with swansdown”
- Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 2e Figure, 1785: “a pelisse lined with sable”
- Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 3e Figure, 1785: “a pelisse lined with fur”
- Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785: “a large satin pelisse lined and trimmed with sable in two rows”
- Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 6e Figure, 1785: “a large winter pelisse made of satin trimmed with sable”
- Cabinet des Modes, 2e Cahier, 1ere Planche, 1785: “Pelisse of white satin, edged with marten’s tail.&rdquo (also here);
- Magasin des Modes, 3e Cahier, Plate I, December 10, 1786: “For showing winter dress, it would not suffice to give a Lady fully dressed in a satin gown; it would be even worse to show her covered with a pelisse and carrying a muff, to have the full dress. The former would show the effect of the gown, uncovered by the pelisse, and in the way that she would appear at an Assembly; but the latter would show the full outfit, and in the way she would appear in a Promenade or at the Spectacle. The former was necessary for the purpose; the latter is no less so. The practice of wearing pelisses does not survive with as much strength as in previous years (the fashion of mantelets, and, even more, wool redingotes, have given it a rude push!), but it is not past: one could say that at present one is still not fully dressed without a pelisse. Thus it is necessary to show a Lady covered with a pelisse and holding a muff … She wears a pelisse of blue satin, lined with blackish fox fur, trimmed on the edges with wide bands of matching fur, held at front with a bow of white ribbon.”
- Magasin des Modes Nouvelles Françaises et Anglaises, 30 décembre 1787, 3e Année, 5e Cahier, Pl. 1,2,3
- Magasin des Modes, January 1788
- Magasin des Modes, January 1789
- Magasin des Modes, December 1789
- The Lottery Contrast, 1794