Tuesday, October 23, 2012


One of the items on my wish list for the next few months is a pelisse, or long coat for Regency.  Another item I hadn't given a lot of thought to but would serve the same purpose is a walking dress, which would also be warm and good for winter wear.  The warmth is the important thing, because I plan to wear this ice skating!

After my successful spencer completion I've been in a Regency mood again.  While I haven't yet found wool that makes me happy for a pelisse, I've recently come across a number of fashion plates that caught my eye. They are all pelisses and walking dresses from throughout the early 1800s, trimmed in ermine.  I am totally in love with ermine as a lining/trim now--which would be so much better if it weren't practically impossible to find (as a fake version, that is)!

What we think of as ermine--white fur with black bits throughout--is actually fur from a Stoat (a breed of weasel).  Stoats are brown in color for most of the year, but in winter it has a thick, short white coat with only a black tip on the tail.  This is the fur that has long been prized for clothing.

a Stoat Weasel, in summer coat
As you might imagine, something made out of real fur takes a lot of these little guys.  If the piece is going to include the tail, the skins are combined such that the black tips appear at regular intervals throughout the finished product, giving it the distinctive ermine look we've all seen in royal portraits.

detail from a portrait of King George III by Allan Ramsay, 1761-2.  His robe is lined in ermine fur.
  Ermine has been used in clothing for centuries, but is particularly associated with royalty.  In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the "royal fur."  In particular it has been historically part of ceremonial garments in Russia (for the coronation of Czars) and Great Britain (a House of Hanover favorite).  It is also a traditional lining for the academic robes at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (they mostly fake it with rabbit fur now).  However, though hugely expensive, ermine was available to the fashionable laypeople of the 19th century.  I didn't find many extant garments featuring my weasel friend, but I did find several fashion plates.

I'll share them with you with a bit of commentary...I'm still hoping that I'll come up with a good way to fake this and make my own for skating!

Ermine trimmed (and lining the hood) redingote, Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1812
I would need so much fur, but this one is perhaps my favorite. From the same source as above, 1811
Another hooded redingote, fully lined in ermine. From the same source, 1809
A little late, but so fabulously stylish. Walking dress with ermine trim, 1822
Accessories are always important, and this is a whole set! Carriage costume with ermine lining, trim, muff, and hat. January 1817
Hooray for extant garments! I just want to cuddle into that ermine collar...pelisse, 1813-1817
I like the yellows quite a bit.  Also, this one is interesting because it appears to be trimmed with a brown fur on top of the ermine lining. super warm?  Pelisse, Ackerman's 1811
Well, this ended up with a lot of images, but aren't they lovely?  I'm not sure why this appeals to me so much, but a wool or velvet pelisse lined in (faux) fur sounds like an incredibly soft, scrumptious, and practical thing to make. I will be so warm! I will be able to ice skate all the time!

(But only in the Regency.)

1 comment:

  1. Any luck faking it? I'm still searching for a method, also.