Thursday 10 January 2013

Men's cloaks

Cloaks are among the oldest garments. It is thought that the 5300 year old Otzi was wearing some form of grass cloak, though the conjectural shape of the garment has been disputed. (Klaus 2009)  On the war panel of the Standard of Ur in the British Museum, which dates to about 2600-2400 BC soldiers in cloaks fastened at the neck can clearly be seen.

Felipe IV of Spain c.1627
By the early modern period cloaks were commonplace items of clothing, and for men from the mid 16th to the mid 17th centuries they were also fashion items. Cloaks rarely appear in illustrations of working men, though it has been commented that they are found in the wills and probate inventories of husbandmen and tradesmen. (Morris 2000). But it you want to see how common they were in the mid 17th century just have a look at the engraving of the Royal Exchange by Hollar

It is interesting to note that the almsmen of the London Mercers Company were, in 1609, to be provided with a new gown every three years, “provided that they be enjoined not to go forth in cloaks but in gowns as other almsmen about the town do.” (Cunnington 1978) This would seem to indicate that by the beginning of the seventeenth century the clothing of almsmen was being fossilised into an old fashioned form, whereas the cloaks, even at this level of society, were fashionable. Plain commonplace cloaks tend not to survive unless they are associated with someone special, for example the pilgrim cloak of Stephan Praun III. Praun was a member of a prominent Nuremburg family and obtained the cloak on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1571, the garment is now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremburg.

Among the fashionable cloaks often formed part of a suit of clothes, many of the suits Charles I paid for during the period 1633-35 were suits, consisting of doublet, breeches and cloak, for example for £42 15s 5d (one of his cheapest suits) he got, “a suite of  Cinnamond cullor cloth, all drawne with silver and silk buttons, lined with seagreene tabie, a cloke of the same cloth lined with plush turned up with buttons and loope lace on the breast” (Strong 1980)  Compare the cost of Charles’s cheap suit with James Master Esq of Yotes Court who paid in 1647-8, £3 15s 0d just for the making of “a sad colour cloath sute and a grey riding cloak.” (C. W. Cunnington 1972) Of this type of three piece suit very few survive, but the Victoria and Albert Museum has a beautiful yellow satin outfit dating to 1635-45.  

As is usual Philip Stubbes had a go at cloaks in his Anatomy of Abuses (Stubbes 1583), difficult to find an item of fashion he didn’t disapprove of. What he said was, in part, “They have clokes... of dyverse and sundry colors ...whereof some be of the Spanish, French and Dutch fashions. Some short, scarcely reaching to the girdlestead, some to the knee and othersome trailing upon the ground (almost) liker gowne than clokes. ... some have sleeves.. some have hoods... some are hanged with points and tassels...” He does go on a bit. So in length the cloaks range from a short waist length cape as in the engraving of the Duke of Savoy, through hip length as in the Van Dyck portrait of the brothers John and Bernard Stuart, to a knee length garment as in the portrait of Felipe IV of Spain from 1623-4, to a full length garment. Like those of Charles I the cloaks were usually lined, and the fastening could be none, or buttons or tassels. Many have collars as in this example from the second half of the 16th century in the Victoria and Albert Museum, or the very nice red velvet example in the Museum of London which can be worn with the collar flat or standing, unfortunately there is no image of it on the website. (Halls 1970)

 In shape cloaks at this period are usually made in the form of a half circle, a three quarter circle or a full circle. Patterns for six cloaks appear in Patterns of Fashion 3. (Arnold 1985). They range in date from 1560-1620.  Four are semi circular, one is more elliptical than circular, and one is cut in panels. One had a hood.

The cloak my son wears is based on an original from the Lauinger royal crypt, now in the Bavarian National Museum, and dating to the mid 17th century. (Stolleis 1977) The original pattern is very simple, it is a complete circle two metres (79 inches) across and made from four widths of fabric each about half a metre (20 inches) wide. A neck hole is cut, very slightly off centre as it sits higher at the back of the neck than at the front. The collar is 46 cm. (18 inches) long at the neckline, and 23 cm (9 inches) deep at the edges. The outer edge is cut to form a very slight point, the centre back is 25 cm (10 inches) deep.

Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion: the cut and construction of clothes for men and women c. 1560-1620. London: Macmillan, 1985.
Cunnington, C. W. and P. Handbook of English costume in the seventeenth century. 3rd ed. London: Faber, 1972.

Cunnington, P. and Lucas, C. Charity costumes. London: Black, 1978.
Dalison, Mrs, transcriber. “The expense book of James Master, Esq., of Yotes Court, Mereworth, 1646-55.” Archaeologia Cantiana, 1883 .

Halls, Zillah. Men's costume 1580-1750. London: HMSO for the London Museum, 1970.
Klaus, Oeggl. “The significance of the Tyrolean Iceman for the archaeobotany of Central Europe.” Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, Jan. 2009: 1-11.

Morris, R. Clothes of the common man 1580-1660. Bristol: Stuart Press, 2000.
Stolleis, Karen. Die Gewänder aus der Lauinger Fürstengruft. Munchen: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1977.

Strong, R. “Charles I's clothes for the years 1633 to 1635.” Costume, 1980.
Stubbes, P. The anatomie of abuses. 1583.

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