Jenny La Fleur
the capelet of fits & starts - Jenny La Fleur — LiveJournal
adventures in costuming
the capelet of fits & starts

Capelet, Mantelette, Small Cape. I'm not sure what the correct term actually is but whatever the proper title of this garment one thing is clear - it is kicking my butt.

I started this project a month ago and have been working on it in fits and starts ever since. Heavy emphases on the "fits". Really this should be a simple project. You know, a nice easy garment to ease my way back into costuming after what has turned out to be a long hiatus from personal costuming. A quick project to cross off my costuming list and get the ball rolling on my very ambitious costuming schedule for the coming year. But no, of course it's turned out to be anything but!

I started out by following the example of girliegirl32786 & bauhausfrau by scaling up the lace mantelette in Costume Close-Up.

I scaled it up to the original size, cut out a mock up and tried it on.

HORRIBLE! Clearly the sizing was off but more than that, the proportions were totally wrong. Plus it really wasn’t what I had in mind when I pictured my perfect capelet. It's not fair how it could look so cute on my friends and yet so awful on me! Merh.

Unfortunately for my sanity this project is one that I am not willing to be anything less than perfect. Why? The fabric. I was generously given a length of the most amazing cashmere/wool by a non-sewing friend. It's a wonderfully warm but lightweight fabric that is unbelievably soft to the touch. The color shifts from a slate-gray-green to a bottle green depending on the light. It's a fabric far above my normal budget and one I will probably never be able to replace. So I wasn’t going to waste it on anything I wasn’t 100% happy with.

So the question became do I alter/fudge the CCU pattern to both fit me and the stubborn vision in my head or should I start with another pattern and work from there. It was going to be about the same amount of work, so it came down to what did I feel like.

I pondered that for a few weeks and as I pondered I researched. My main question was did the capelet in my vision even exist in the 18th century? Largely thanks to Pinterest (and the links/museums/collections it lead me to) I found many more capes/mantelettes that I had ever seen before. I found a very interesting variety of construction and styles. It seems capes are like everything else in the 18th century - made by a variety of seamstresses, in a variety of ways, for a variety of bodys. There aren't really any rules, only the restrictions of the technology of the day, the skill of the seamstress and the mindful cost of fabrics. In the end I found all the elements from my vision, although not all in the same garment. Still it gave me the confidence to break away from the only extant pattern I had in CCU and create the capelet I really wanted.

One of the main elements I wanted was a full back. I thought proportionally it would look better on the curvy me but also I wanted the more luxurious feel of extra fabric. No skimpy capelets for me! Costume Close Up, in addition to the lace mantelette and woman's wool cape also has a 1780s men's cape. The men's cape was fuller, cut in a generous half circle. After finding some women's capes that seemed to be cut the same way in my research, I used that as my starting point.

But rather than going to the bother of scaling CCU up I cheated. I trolled through my Mom's pattern stash (pattern hoarders in the family do come in handy sometimes) and pulled out every pattern that had a cape. Then I looked at the pattern shapes and found one that matched the men's cape in CCU. I'm so lazy!

I basically laid that out on some muslin and, with the help of a couple of measurements, I lengthened it overall and drew in the elongated front. A quick try on and it was pretty much perfect.

I tweaked the shape of the elongated front a bit, futzed with the pleating of the neck, trimmed the angle of the front (so the edges met nicely) and worked on the shape of the hem (my shoulders hiked up the hem in an odd looking way so to even it out I had to trim the back, cutting off the perfect circle in the back) but one toile later I was done. With my heart skipping a beat or two, I cut my amazing fabric. That was too easy!

My next challenge has been the hood. I have found a few 18th century capelets without hoods but the vast majority seem to have them so even though I will probably never use it (hoods destroy carefully styled coiffures in my experience), I need a hood.

I've always loved radiating pleats on the hood on my red cape so I started with that. In making my red cape I used the hood as-is from CCU, making no changes whatsoever. The one thing I was never happy with was the awkward way it hung in the back. So I started tweaking and toiling, trying to get a hood that looked good up and down.

So far it's been nothing but frustrating as I can't seem to get it right no matter how many tweaks I make. I've lost track of how many toiles I've done, having given up on documenting every change. So now I'm trying to decide how anal retentive I'm going to be with this. Should I keep tweaking or is it time to say "good enough". Or should I just forget the whole thing and make it without a hood. I'm pondering.

Also in the pondering pile are the questions of lining (I've pretty much decided on a black silk taffeta lining, although my budget may dictate China silk instead) and trimming (black silk ribbon or vintage fur - again more of a budget question than anything).

thinking... thinking...

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16 comments | comment?
isabelladangelo From: isabelladangelo Date: November 27th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC) (link)
Maybe a hood without the pleats? Or the basic square with a rounded top corner?
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: November 27th, 2012 02:25 pm (UTC) (link)
But I really like the pleats! Most of my issues have been in the getting it to lay nicely when down, which the pleats don't seem to affect too much so I'm still soldiering on with them at this point...
butterballbunny From: butterballbunny Date: November 27th, 2012 07:54 am (UTC) (link)
*hugs* *sigh* One of those 'theoretically this would be so easy-and-quick projects', erh?
I'm sure it will be gorgeous when it's done tho. :)
We must be on the same wavelength. I'd also been infected by the 18th C outerwear virus and have been slowly working on my very first cloak. :)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: November 27th, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC) (link)
Totally - one of those projects. *sigh*

Yes indeed, the 2013 Pandemic of 18th Century Awesomeness is definitely here! :>
nuranar From: nuranar Date: November 27th, 2012 05:15 pm (UTC) (link)
Gosh, that blue velvet one is gorgeous! I have no help for the hood, but plenty of sympathy and encouragement. They've never worked nicely for me, either, but with an amazing fabric like this, and the body of the wrap working so nicely, you have every right to want it to be perfect. Maybe just step away for a while, and let it stew in your mind. (((HUGS)))

But I do vote for fur trim. It's gorgeous and looks so luxurious, especially with that amazing fabric!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC) (link)
I know, I totally squeed when I saw the velvet one! I know the fur sounds like such fun, it's just the affording it part...
girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: November 27th, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC) (link)
I think its looking great so far and if it makes you feel any better, my cream cape/pelisse isn't behaving. :)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:16 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks makes me feel SO much better! Here I was thinking it was just me that didn't have the midas touch with capes. :P
dawnluck From: dawnluck Date: November 27th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC) (link)
I loved reading about this project! I can’t wait to see your final result. I loved some of the images you shared. I especially like the green embroidered extent example. Just Beautiful!

In reference to the hood: When I was working on my daughter’s wedding dress I made the silk “cloak” from Fitting and Proper. I made it in a fine cream coloured wool with a silk dupioni lining. You can see images of it here – scroll down:

I don’t know if it will help but I really liked the pattern. I didn’t need to change much except length as the cloak was for someone much taller than my daughter. I can’t quite remember; I might have changed the shape of the bottom front as well. But perhaps this is the hood you’re looking for? If you don’t have the book, let me know.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC) (link)
Oh I do have that book, I'll have to check it out - thanks! :>
starlightmasque From: starlightmasque Date: November 28th, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC) (link)
Looks wonderful! I can't wait to see it all done. Love your red cloak! Beautiful!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC) (link)
mlsdesigns From: mlsdesigns Date: November 28th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC) (link)
If you can't make the hood behave as you'd like, how about a fur trimmed shoulder cape like the lady in the screaming yellow? (I love the idea of a fur trimmed cape! it wouldn't take long if I made it using the pattern of my green one, right? and maybe I could fit it in my suitcase!!)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:21 pm (UTC) (link)
I'm thinking really seriously about it, although I suspect that the shoulder cape might be a full hood all the way down - I've seen images of both (the shoulder cape being much less common than the hod of course.) You know you need one!!
madamekat From: madamekat Date: November 28th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC) (link)
I'm sorry this project is giving you The Evil, but I know you'll win in the end!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: December 1st, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC) (link)
I will beat it into submission, never fear! :>
16 comments | comment?