Victorian Paisley Coat

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This is an incredible coat or "wrapper" from approximately 1897-1903, the final years of the Victorian era. Wrappers were popular from the 1850s on as a gown which might be worn while working at home or receiving friends for tea. Wrappers were often made in soft, warm materials such as wool and cashmere, and paisley patterns such as this one were popular because they referenced the exotic and cozy Kashmir shawls which had been imported from India since the late 18th century, and which would have evoked to the 19th century mind the vast and exciting world of exploration, international trade, and opportunity. This particular wrapper can be dated to the turn of the century through its sleeves, collar, and torso shaping. The sleeves retain the puffed shoulderhead of the 1890s, but have come down from their earlier "leg-o-mutton" volume to a more manageable and flattering size. The collar, which was more commonly a jewel or mandarin collar in the late 1880s and early 1890s, has on this garment been given the smart, tailored shaping of early 20th century walking suits. Finally, the fitted back follows the lines common to ladies' tailored garments of this period, while the front is loose and full to accent a distinctive pigeon-breasted silhouette. Thus, this garment successfully blends the traditional elements of a wrapping gown - warm colours, complex patterns, and suptuous volume - with the specific fashionable shapes of its time. Although it looks distinctly feminine to the modern eye, the overall shape is actually quite masculine for its time period, with lines that evoke a man's frock coat, and this, too, is highly indicative of the turn of the century, when women were embracing masculine details in their clothing and beginning to campaign agressively for the rights denied them. This was a period when dress had a great deal to say, and the combined social commentary of the masculine shaping and political commentary of the Indian fabric show that there is much more to this simple wrapper than might first meet the eye.
The gown is expertly constructed to 19th century standards, with the usual combination of machine and hand techniques. An attempt at pattern matching has been made on the back panels, but, as always in antique garments, priority has been wisely given to fabric conservation in the center back panels. Nevertheless, the flow and symmetry of the piece has been maintained through the side panels and into the skirt, resulting in a wonderful swirling effect. The gown is constructed with a separate internal bodice to preserve the outer material, only one original half remains. The piece is lined in cotton for structural integrity and warmth, and the front edges are beauitfully faced in a copper silk satin with a border of paisley set in from the edge. This detail shows that the facing was meant to be turned back over the bust, although it could certainly be overlapped for extra coziness. Although this garment was originally intended to be worn over a corset, the volume at the front ensures that it will fit a variety of waist sizes. The coat does not come with the belt shown, it is used to simply show how it would look with one as there is no closure meant to this piece. This is an absolutely stunning piece with incredible workmanship, and will remind you of all the inspiring new horizons it must have evoked to its original wearer over a century ago.
Place of Origin
Late 19th Century
Material Notes
Cotton, Wool
Excellent. Phenomenal condition for it's age. Please note this garment is over 100 years old and thus does have a few very small spots here and there. The fabric is in strong wearable condition..
Wear consistent with age and use
60 in. L
152 cm L
Marked Size
S-M (US)
34 in. (86 cm)
34 in. (86 cm)
41 in. (104 cm)
60 in. (152 cm)
Dealer Location
New York, NY
Number of Items
Reference Number
260 West 36th Street
Suite 201
New York NY 10018
(646) 846-8372
1stdibs Dealer since 2015 Located in New York, NY
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