Custom Search


 Mantelet Fashion History

Mantelet Fashion History 1

Line Drawings of Victorian Mantelets, Visites and Dolmans

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Mantle, Mantelet and Epaulet Fashion History


Mantle and Mantelet Coat terms.

Coats can have many names, but similar terms like mantles and mantelets are confusing.  A mantle was originally a long flowing cloak without sleeves that developed into a capacious coat. A mantle would be at least three quarter length to floor length.

Romantic Era Witzchoura Mantle.
Picture of a witzchoura mantle. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats. Costume history.

A mantelet is a shorter coat with cloak or wrap like qualities often emanating from interestingly devised sleeves or illusion of sleeves.  Mantelet can be spelt mantlet.

A Simple Cape cut Visite Mantelet of 1850
Picture of a visite mantle 1850. Costume history and fashion history of mantelets.

The early mantelet or mantelet of 1730 began life as a simple silk or taffeta cape with a scarf like formation.  It had longer front points that passed and crossed to the waist, often being able to be passed to the back.  It came back into favour in various similar forms in the late 1820s, but then the scarf ends reached the knees and sometimes it was called a pelerine.

It remained popular as a scarf like form until the 1840s when it was somewhat supplanted by a fashion for fine wool shawls. 

Then in the 1850s it revived as fashion and on the next page I have some colour tinted pictures of early Victorian mantelets taken from some of my fashion plates from both Le Moniteur De La Mode April 1850 and an advertisement for Sewell and Comp Soho London 1852.  One of the most simple styles is shown above.

After that the mantelet became a distinctive fashion garment in its own right, changing style lines as clothes worn beneath also changed the final silhouette.


Victorian Mantelets

In the early and mid Victorian eras a mantelet was more evenly balanced lengthwise than at other times.  

Later it became longer in the front fanning well over the domed front sides of crinoline skirts.  The mantelet changed more to a half jacket with capacious sleeves and its contour changed with the fluctuations of sleeve styles and crinoline fullness.

As the years passed and bustles arrived it became much shorter either ending abruptly at back waist level or developing peplums that fanned or spread into longer separate tails intended to fan over the skirt.  The back was invariably a different silhouette to the front view, sometimes with longer back tails and a short front and at other times longer front tails and a shorter back.

In the later Victorian era two main styles of mantelet existed and focused on how the sleeve area was handled.  Sleeves existed, but sometimes appeared as if they were an illusion.  The first very visible sleeve was the dolman and was cut wide and generous, especially at the bottom width.  The dolman mantelets shown directly below were fitted and shaped to follow the body silhouette of the 1870s and 1880s whilst accommodating decorated sleeves and bustle changes.


Opera Dolman Mantelets

Picture of an opear dolman mantlet 1882. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats. Picture of an opera dolman mantlet 1885. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats. Picture of an opera dolman mantlet 1886. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats.

The second mantelet styling shown below, gave rise to a sleeve slit called a sling sleeve.  Little peplums were an attractive and practical back finish.

Mantelet Back 18871887 Mantelet Front
Picture of a mantelet 1887 back. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats. Picture of an 1887 mantelet.  Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats.

With its short back, a typical mantelet style of 1886 to 1888 and the second bustle era, was designed to accommodate the firm protruding bustle and fulsome pouf skirts whilst allowing the wearer ease of movement with its open front arm slits. 

The short backed mantelet enabled a lady to retain the overall gorgeous effect of her ensemble revealing the wonderful ornate bustle skirt back pouf. The protruding bustle dress skirt of the second bustle period after 1883 created a harder silhouette outline than the softer first bustle period, giving a woman an appearance of the covered hind legs of a horse.

Mantelets with Lappet Tails


The Victorians of the 1880s favoured mantelets which often had the appearance of a cloak with hanging loose sleeves and longer front tails called lappets.  The cape section often terminated at the armholes and later in the 1880s the sleeve section became enclosed to give the unusual silhouette with sling sleeves.

The width and generous cut of the cape style sling sleeve suggests that this item was able to accommodate the new fuller heads of sleeves circa 1889/91.

The tails or lappets would hang down over the skirt front, or, if the skirt was more domed, or the woman pregnant they would gently fan out over the abdomen.  The lappets provided an attractive contrast of fabric to the skirt beneath.

Fitted Mantelet with Four lappets Mantelet with Twin  Cape Effect and Lappets 
1887 mantelet with lappets.. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats. 1885 mantelet with lappets.. Costume history and fashion history of cloaks and coats.

During both bustle periods the cut had to change to allow for the bulk of the bustle.  The looser cape style back of this mantelet above right is in line with the later 1880’s to early 1890s waist long capes rather than the earlier peplum style finished mantelets.  Variations of these styles continued and changed to accommodate the dress underneath until the 1890s, when at the turn of the century the fashion for mantelets with tails waned. 

Visite Mantelets

The mantelet could also be called a visite or visite mantelet.

Neat visite mantelets were most worn with a tonally suitable dress as part of a late Victorian visiting toilette.  The 1880s and 1890s was a peak decade of the Victorian’s obsession with calling and visiting etiquette.  The medium weight of the mantelet with a perhaps lightly quilted lining enabled the carriage class wearer to alight from a vehicle with relative ease and then sit in a drawing room for a short visit, without either disrobing or disturbing the overall effect of her gorgeous attire.

Etiquette books and articles such as those in the The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine or Queen magazine advised ladies making up their trousseaus to ensure they had at least 2 or 3 evening wraps among their purchases and these would have included mantelets and cloaks.

All mantelets could be trimmed with decoration such as contrast moiré or velvet banding.  Ornate macramé fringe, and applied lace was also used to add a flourish of sumptuousness.  Popular materials included the use of velvets, plushette, velveteen and sateen. 

Two delightful examples of a visite mantelet with a short peplum style back and lappet tails are shown in La Mode Illustree Fashion Plates in Full Colour, edited by Florence Leniston, where all fashion plates shown are dated 1886.

The Use of the Spanish Matador Style Epaulet or Mancheron

A designer touch sometimes used on the shoulders of a mantelet was the use of a decorative epaulet called a Mancheron.  The Mancheron would be a cascade of passementerie and jet or other bead fringe in the Spanish Matador style, so popular at various times in the mid to late Victorian era.

Fashion Plates of Mantelets

On the next page I have some lovely pictures of early Victorian mantelets taken from some of my fashion plates from the Le Moniteur De La Mode April 1850 and an advertisement for Sewell and Comp Soho 1852. 



If you like this page then please share it with your friends


For more information about coats and cloaks click below:-



Custom Search

About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. reserves the right to add or delete information, graphics and links.  Copyright © 2001-2014 on all content, text and images in  Images and text in this website may not be used on other websites.

Before you write to me for costume/fashion help or information please, please consult the extensive sitemap which lists all our pages.   If you still cannot find the answer after searching the site, then before you email me, please consider if you are prepared to make a donation to the website.

Reader's donations help this site flourish, in particular donations encourage me to write more articles on fashion history as well as current trends.  PayPal allows anyone with a credit card to donate easily and securely. You may donate any sum you feel appropriate.

For superb Victorian or Edwardian
re-enactment costumes in USA, try the reproduction costume range at:
Recollections for Victorian and Edwardian costumes