18th Century Pelisses

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

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 … ”).

Extant examples

Portraits and illustrations