Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Focus On: Formal Outerwear

By Sherri of Sew Betty and Dot

In keeping with the Pattern Patter team's festive treasury focus this month--Holiday Cocktail Party-let's take a look at all the ways you can cover up--and MAYBE stay warm--on the way to your party. I say "maybe" stay warm because some of these are really more decorative than practical. Doesn't that define fashion, in a certain sense?

The focus here is on capes, capelets, shawls, stoles, boleros, and long or opera coats. I'll look at more practical outerwear in a future post.

A (very) brief history of capes: everyone, men and women, used to wear cloaks, long (to the feet) and shapeless garments with slits for one's arms--in early days, these cloaks often doubled as people's blankets. Cloaks began to be more structured garments, and they developed collars and a piece that draped over the shoulders: the cape.

As women's fashions became more exuberant--especially the sleeves and the skirt shape--the cloak began to be shorter. Think of the bustle: cloaks would have hidden that feature (and made women look even more odd, with a bustle causing the cloak to protrude in the back).

Left: Man's cloak, French, 1580-1600, V&A Museum, from commons.wikimedia.com
Center: Spanish cloaks from 1848 English tailoring guide, from BlackTieGuide.com
Right: Woman's cape, English, 1830. Courtesy LACMA, from commons.wikimedia.org

What patterns are available for YOU to use to make your own formalwear cover-up? Check it out!

As always, please click on the images to enlarge them to see more detail.

Captivating capes and capelets:

Top row: Simplicity 3986: PinkPolkaDotButton

Stunning stoles and shawls:

Beautiful boleros:

And finally, some fascinating formal coats (and let's not forget the dolls!):

How do YOU stay warm when you're dressed in your party frock? Tell us in the comments! 

I have to admit that I did once go to the L.A. Opera in a Max Studio long dress, Doc Martens, and a black motorcycle jacket. Ahem. It WAS the early 1980s!

Please be sure to shop with the team on Black Friday...lots of shops will be having smokin' sales, so stay tuned!


  1. Classy and beautiful, I might say that with the fabric choices out there that I would take a envious double take on any one of these beauties! About your choice for an opera, I bet you looked awesome!
    Debora from VintageNeedleFinds

  2. Wow! Lovely patterns. Great blog post, thanks for all the hard work, I've shared ;)

  3. Wonderful patterns! I love cloaks, capes, and capelets!

    Great post!

  4. Ooh there's several in there that I would love to wear! Where I would wear them... now that's another story...

  5. Great post! I'd love to have a gorgeous cloak!

  6. Love this post! Oh, I love the Lanvin from PattysPastTimes! I think I need to find a gala to wear something like that.