18th Century Women’s Cloaks & Mantles

Last updated: Jan 7, 2024

The Annals of Philadelphia mentions that “Ladies formerly wore cloaks as their chief overcoats; they were used with some changes of form under the successive names of roquelaus, capuchins, and cardinals.”

Pages elsewhere on this site focus on specific styles of cloaks, including capuchins, mantelets, pelisses, short cloaks, and men’s cloaks.

Wool cloaks

In 1748, Pehr Kalm remarked that “When the English women in the country are going out to pay their compliments to each other, they commonly wear a red cloak.”

  • Monmouth County Historical Association 1998.578, made in New Jersey c. 1754-1757; “A woman's cloak of tightly fulled bright scarlet wool. The cloak is cut on the half-circle and seamed up the back. The front edges are bound with narrow red cording, while the bottom edge is left unhemmed. A fold-over simple collar is attached to the neckline and trimmed with narrow red cording. An additional double capelet is sewn along the neckline and edged with narrow red binding.”
  • Monmouth County Historical Association 3356, possibly made in New Jersey, c. 1750-1770; “A woman's cloak of tightly fulled scarlet wool with a collar above an attached shaped mantelet (collar extension). A hood, lined with white silk, is sewn to the cloak's neckline above both collar and mantelet. The cloak's edges are left unhemmed, while hood front edge is lined with red corded piping. The front edges of the cloak are faced with narrow strips of white silk. The cloak is fastened at the neck with a large steel eye and a brass hook.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1956-3, Great Britain or New England, c. 1750-1800; “Women’s hooded cloak of wool, tabby weave, dyed Turkey-red, often called a 'cardinal' due to its color. Binding of silk taffeta ribbon running along the outside of hood and cloak opening. Cloak would have fastened with ribbed silk ties as neck closures fastened to either side of the cloak opening just below the hood.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1953-968, red hooded woman’s cloak, England, c. 1750-1810; “Scarlet wool circular cloak of 54" material; attached hood of same material with center back seam. Fullness is gathered in full pleats into center of crown of hood. Lined with new dull red silk and has drawstring around front edge to shir hood in around face.”
  • Historic New England 1988.500, red wool Shaker cape trimmed with linen passementerie with brown silk chenille, c. 1750-1825
  • Historic New England 1992.683, a red wool cape with imitation red fur trim, c. 1750-1820
  • Met C.I.69.4, red wool hooded cape, last third of the 18th century
  • Meg Andrews 8662 (now Colonial Williamsburg 2018-4), rare short cloak, c. 1770; “The red broadcloth cut shorter and curved at the back, lengthening at the front, a horizontal join seam the large hood with radiating fan type pleating to the back, inside lined with scarlet sik, similar edging to the hood and front of the cloak … The silk hood tapes for tieing are missing but evidence of them.”
  • Connecticut Historical Society 1981.37.1, American (originally owned by Deborah Champion), c. 1770-1800; “Red wool broadcloth cloak (called a "cardinal") with red wool shag trimming around the front edge and around the slits for the arms. The body of the cloak is pieced into a semicircle and pleated into a narrow band at the neck. The hood is attached to the neckband. The back of the hood is arranged in radiating pleats meeting in the center. The inside of the hood is lined with red silk. On either side of the cloak body are slits for the wearer's arms. These were originally bound with the silk lining fabric (now mostly worn off). The shag trimming around the front edge is pieced about nine inches below the proper left neck edge; the shag nap is in the opposite direction from the shag below it. In other areas where the shag is pieced, the nap runs in the same direction. The hook and eye at the neck edge is not original. The broadcloth was dyed in the piece, as areas where it has been abraded show white. The fabric is so heavily fulled that very little seam allowance is needed, as it does not fray.”
  • Connecticut Historical Society 1972.3.1, c. 1770-1800; “Woman's "cardinal" cloak of heavily fulled red wool. The cloak has an attached hood which is shaped by fan-like pleating at the center back. The hood is stitched to a neckband, with four pleats across the back for fullness. Around the base of the neckband is a deep, scalloped collar; the cloak is pleated into the neckband under this collar. The lower half of the hood is lined with black silk. The center front opening edges are bound with this black silk so that only a narrow strip of the silk is seen from the front, while behind the edge, the silk is about 2 5/8 inches deep. There are slits on the front of the cloak for the arms; these slits are edged with the black silk. The bottom edge of the collar and the edge of the hood are also bound with the black silk. The bottom edge of the cloak is left raw, as are the seam allowances. The wool is so heavily fulled that it does not ravel.”
  • MORR 3996, a cape belonging to Tempe Wick, daughter of Henry Wick, on whose land Washington's army camped
  • Details (broadcloth & stitching, edges & overview, hood) from UNH Irma Bowen 58, owned by Temperance Pickering Knight of Newington, New Hampshire, c. 1750-1821
  • MFA 99.664.16, woman’s hooded cloak, Lexington, Massachusetts, last quarter of the 18th century; “Red wool broadcloth hooded cloak trimmed in black silk, hood gathered at back, cloak gathered at shoulders and pieced at bottom”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1989-402, made in Britain or America (worn in New York), 1775-1810; “Woman's full-length hooded cloak of red wool broadcloth edged with mohair shag. There is a large hood, a small pointed collar, and a waist length "vest" insert at the center front, which fastens with 5 silk thread buttons underneath the front edges of the cloak. The collar at the base of the hood fastens with 2 tabs of red broadcloth which would be pinned together.”
  • Henry Ford 73.178.3, women’s cape, made in the United States or United Kingdom 1780-1830; red wool cloak with silk trim and arm slits
  • Cloak owned by Mrs. Fila Field Dickinson of Deerfield, Massachusetts, c. 1785-1795; see piecing diagram
  • KCI AC3664 81-1-11, late 18th century; “cape with hood of red homespun wool, plush trim”
  • Saco Museum, ladies' wool cloak and matching hood in red broadcloth, late 18th century
  • FIT 2002.36.1, felted wool and taffeta cloak, 18th century
  • Casco Bay April 23 2022, Lot 74, an 18th century scarlet cloak from Long Island, New York; “A hooded and caped cloak or 'cardinal' of scarlet broadcloth owned by Mary Pierson Rose (1769-1830) of Suffolk County, Long Island. The cape body is 52 inches in length at center back at neck seam and 49 in. L on front edges, while the fall-down, scalloped cape is 6 ¼ inches L at the same point. There is a hook and eye closure at the neck. All edges are left 'raw' or unfinished. The attached, closed hood is 13 ½ in. L at backseam, 12 ½ deep at top, and is 16 ½ inches long in front. The cloak, which forms an approximate half-circle laid out, measures 188 inches in circumference. It is made of cut and fitted sections of plainweave, woolen broadcloth (58 inches width from selvedge to selvedge). The cape fronts have innerfacings running their full length and of 4-inch breadth, of a pinkish-red, glazed plainweave worsted, while the front edges of the cloak, arm slit welts, cape and hood were all trimmed with a one inch-wide, scarlet and gold passementerie braid of silk and linen, now frayed and fragmented. The upper seven inches of the hood backseam was resewn, suggesting that the gathered back of 18th c. style was altered in the early 19th century; there are also traces remaining of a buff or gold-colored silk lining along the altered seam; traces of red bays remain sewn to the worsted innerfacings, suggesting that the upper body was probably lined with such at the same time.”
  • Historic New England 2006.44.1293AB, red wool riding hood cape with an attached hood and a separate matching hood, c. 1800; “The circular cape has a double line of white stitching on the bottom hem. Near the front opening, extra fabric was sewn on to complete the curved edge. Both edges of the opening are trimmed with fine red cord. There are two inner flaps just below the neckline with three brown thread buttons on the right side and three button holes on the left side. At the top of the neckline is a hook and eye closure. The attached hood has a white silk lining and the hem is sewn in with white thread. There are pleats sewn in around the outer edge of the hood. A band of white cord was sewn around the opening of the hood outside of the seam and meets at the top of the hood in a knotted mass of cord from which two long cords ending in tassels hang down. The back has a center vertical seam with brown thread. The top of the neck back has two sections of shirring on either side giving the shoulders fullness. The back of the hood has a circular gather with a small hole in the center.
    Unattached hood: Outside of the red wool hood is trimmed with brown lace around outer edge and across back of neck. The back of the hood has a circular gather with a hole at the center. There are two flaps of wool with scalloped edges around the bottom of the neckline. The lower layer can be tucked into cape and the outer layer, which is lined in an iridescent brown and pink silk stays on the outside of the cape. Both flaps have a thin red cord for a border. The inside is lined with some iridescent silk. It has a hook and eye closure at the bottom corners. A smaller flap is attached around the neck and to the inner of the two larger flaps.”
  • Manchester 1951.114, scarlet wool hooded cloak, Cheshire, c. 1800-1820; “Scarlet woollen hooded cloak. Circular back with narrow front sections each side. Scarlet woollen cloth. Fronts bound with silk ribbon. Fastening at neck with hook and eye and silk ribbon ties (one missing). Collar quilted with pink silk lining. Hood inserted with collar at neck. Lined with scarlet and brown silk, bound with silk ribbon, silk ribbon to draw up front, tying with central bow. Through family folklore, we are told that this striking woollen cloak was worn in Mobberley in Cheshire by a country bride arriving for her wedding. Made of scarlet cloth, the cloak has been milled to make it more weatherproof and cut with a protective hood and quilted collar for warmth.”

Descriptions of women's cloaks from runaway advertisements

The following excerpts from runaway advertisements from 18th century newspapers describe cloaks that women have either stolen or were wearing. While there are several entries dating to colder times of the year, cloaks were still being stolen in the summer -- presumably to sell for some quick cash at a secondhand clothing shop, or to cover up to avoid recognition, perhaps.

As with the section of wool cloaks listed above, red seems to be the predominant color here, although there are also several blue cloaks and a handful of brown cloaks.

Cotton cloaks and mantles

These appear to have only been worn in some parts of the Netherlands and France, especially Friesland and Alsace.

  • V&A IS.23-1950, c. 1750; “Chintz capes like this were worn indoors and in bed by women in Friesland, Netherlands in the winter in the 18th century … Circular blue-ground floral chintz fabric with two arm-holes, worn as a cape. Lined with Dutch fabric of linen and wool.”
  • V&A IS.104-1950, c. 1775-1780; “This cape has been made from chintz dress material for use in Friesland, where it would have been worn indoors or in bed.”
  • Manchester 1992.9, Provence, c. 1780-1790; “Hooded cloak in black glazed cotton, resist block printed with blue, red, purple and yellow in stylised trailing floral and leaf motifs. French cotton. Lining of two coarser, madder-printed Indian (Gujarati) cottons - one with resist floral sprigs; one with resist diamonds in a print resembling tie-die pattern. Cloak fully quilted in a diamond pattern in black cotton. Hood comprising a rectangle pleated into a central point. Purchased in the late 1920's in Provence and similar to an example in the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts which is documented as made of cotton printed at the Hausmann Factory in Colmar, Alsace.”
  • LACMA M.2007.211.669, Provence, 1785-1820; “Cotton plain weave, copperplate- and roller-printed.” (See also Treasures and Curiosities from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; scroll down to Number Nine)
  • KCI AC 4236 82-12-6, France, 1790-1795; “hooded cape of dark brown Alsatian printed chintz with Indian floral pattern; pleated trim; cotton lining with small floral print”
  • Christie’s Lot 267 / Sale 5422, a fine chintz cloak, “chocolate brown chintz with a cream and turquoise floral print, the hood and edges deeply pleated, and lined in cream flannel with a scarlet floral print and a tan print cotton,” 1790s
  • MFA 49.12, part of a woman’s hooded cloak, Alsace, late 18th century; “Dark purplish-brown ground with delicately drawn fantastic floral design in soft neutral polychrome; all edges trimmed with broad band of shirred self material; lined with different polychrome print on cream cotton ground, crossing diagonal leaf entwined bands forming broad serpentines, with floral sprays on serpentines.”

More mantles & mantelets

Additional Resources

Mantelet and Plisse, taken from Garsault’s L’art du tailleur (1769)

Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790

You can find more detailed information on the pages for capuchins, mantelets, pelisses, etc.

  • Met C.I.68.68.8, a silk capuchin, probably France, c. 1725-1750
  • Met 1971.47.4, a silk domino, British, 18th century
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1993-337, woman’s cape or mantle, black woven lace, Spitalfields, c. 1760-1775; “Woman’s shaped, hooded shoulder mantle or cloak of black gauze silk, woven with square mesh, with isolated leaves and sprigs woven in brocading variant scattered on surface. Cape gathered to ribbon band at neck, shaped to hang down in points at center front, curved up over arms. Self fabric ruffle trim 2¾" deep. Center back weight. Small hood is gathered at center back with material fanning out from center seam.”
  • Woman’s cloak, c. 1770-1800, in Fitting & Proper: “A dove gray silk cloak with hood, lined with self fabric and with cream silk”
  • KCI AC5772 88-19-1, “cape of silk ottoman embroidered with chinoiserie architecture and flowers,” England, c. 1770
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1994-160, a child’s hooded silk cloak, made in Britain, worn in Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1780-1800; constructed of maroon and cream ombre striped satin with supplementary wefts forming six-petal flowers centered with spots and repeated crescent shapes. The cloak is trimmed with cream linen bobbin lace and two-color fly fringe. The hood, which has an adjustment tie at the top, is made of one piece, seamed and pleated to shape at the back of the head. The cape is pleated to a neck band and is shaped at the hem to form longer squared ends at the center front opening. The garment has several different linings: the hood is lined with cream silk tabby of two different weights; the cape is lined with cream glazed worsted tabby (possibly called shalloon originally); and the neck band is lined with ribbed silk.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1999-18, England, c. 1790-1810; “Blue silk satin cloak with sweeping skirt and double-shaped collar trimmed with two buttons on a tab. Open at center front and fastened at neckline with ties. Lined with plain-woven thin silk.”
  • Met 2009.300.3890, silk cape, Britain, c. 1795-1800