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Fashion: Pelisses & Spencers

A look at winter fashion for ladies, focusing on the pelisse and spencer

We don’t see pelisses or spencers until the 1790s, but by the time we reach 1805, they were the preferred forms of outerwear, as they did not conceal fashion rather accentuated it.


The pelisse is full length, while the spencer only reaches below the bosom. Both were form fitting, and both could be buttoned or worn open. The styling changed as we draw closer to the Regency, beginning first with a collar-less style in keeping with a hussar vest, but as we leave the turn of the century, we see a folded collar. Fur lining was not uncommon for added warmth.


The spencer was perfect for a chilly day, as it added an extra layer around the core but otherwise did nothing to stop a cool breeze from flirting with a skirt. The pelisse was the best choice for cold weather since it was worn as an overdress, styled with a high waist to match the dress and reached past the hem of the dress for added warmth.


Pelisses, specifically, were trimmed for warmth. That said, fabric for both depended on the season, as someone could easily wear these year round, opting for muslins and light fabrics in the warm months and velvets and furs for cooler months.


The inspiration for the spencer jacket has become more of a legend than a fact, with every tale varying, from his losing the tails of his coat in a riding incident to his losing the tails by standing too near a fire and other possibilities. It’s fun to conjecture what could have happened to poor Earl of Spencer’s coat.


Photos in graphic are from Festive Attyre for the pelisse and Fabric & Fiction for the spencer.


To read more, check out this post from Jane Austen UK:

Cloaks, Capes, Pelisses, and Spencers


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