Accessorizing for Williamsburg: The Do-It-Again-George Cape-Mantle-Thing

Of course, my cape looks nothing like this…

I’m off and running on my Williamsburg accessories. Feeling good about the muff, I jumped into making a cloak…something simple, easy, quick, right?

Uh, no.

I followed the diagrams in “Costume Close-Up
,” except that I didn’t. I had a remnant of blue wool melton in my stash, which approximated wool broadcloth quite nicely, so I endeavored to make a simple round cloak, about hip-length, with unfinished hem and hand slits, like the original. I planned to line the hood in soft pink silk, like the original, and tie on a big fluffy vintage fur collar I bought from Maggie last Summer. In my mind, mine would look something like a shorter, furry, blue version of this:

The Met, last 3rd of the 18th c.

Simple, right?

Well instead of using my brain, I just started hacking away at the wool. When I should have cut the cloak circular, or almost circular (because of its size), I had some weird half-circle that put the seams in a strange place. My pocket slits weren’t in the right place either, so I stitched them back together, and ended up cutting the cloak into a mantle shape, to accommodate the arms.

The cape cut into a mantle shape – you can see the seams here. I later change the tucking on the neckline.

My hood came out too small, and the pleats on the back were crap, so I deconstructed it, pieced in some more wool (luckily that’s period correct), but then didn’t have enough pretty pink silk to line it. By that time I’d decided the whole cape needed lining, so I cut into an old ivory taffeta petticoat.

Of course, then it all looked too plain, so I endeavored to find some fur for trimming that would match the blonde fox collar. The thrift store delivered, with an outdated jacket lined entirely in ivory faux fur that was actually pretty decent.  When I got it home I realize that the fox collar was quite a bit darker than the faux fur I’d picked up, so I spent an evening learning all about how to color faux fur.

Bottom Right is the original faux fur. Top Middle is the real fur collar – you can see how red it is. Bottom Left is my result from spraying with the alcohol/acrylic solution.

At least THIS part of the project was a success – I used To The Wig Shop!‘s tutorial for staining synthetic hair wigs. I mixed acrylic ink (and some acrylic paint, when the color wasn’t quite right) into rubbing alcohol, sprayed it on the fur, rubbed it with my gloved hands, and let it dry. I didn’t rinse it out, as my application was very light and topical. So far no paint/dye has come off on my skin or clothes, when working with the fur.  It didn’t turn out an *exact* match – the real fur has a lot of red in it – but it was a close enough approximation for me to be happy.

Some more battling and fiddling and doing things twice – gathering/tucking/pleating the neck, the ties, the loops on the fox collar – and I’m done, over it, and it’s actually quite nice. Here’s the result:

It’s not very drapey, but it’ll be warm. With the big collar on it, I feel kindof like Ned Stark
The keep the fur collar in place, and make it removable, I added thread loops on the edges of the underside, and threaded the cape’s ties through.
The pleats on the hood took some fiddling – I used a cartridge pleat technique to create them – basically a big gathering stitch. Worked a treat.

The hood is still not huge. It won’t go over a monstrous hairstyle, but it’ll do nicely over a daytime coif and a cap.

Next time I make a cloak, I’ll be much more prepared! What I am *very* happy about is that this was almost entirely made from stash fabrics. The only thing I bought for it was the faux fur trim – the jacket was about $16.00, and I have loads of faux fur left. If I count the ink and alcohol mixture, too, the total for this project came to about $24.00. Yay stashbusting!


  • Katie Lovely

    January 28, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Love the blue, and it looks really pretty with the fur. 🙂 For what it's worth, IIRC the cloak in Costume Close-Up is actually a half circle and the slits are hand-peek-out slits, not pocket slits…so maybe not what you were looking for, but based on where your seams ended up it looks like you were probably pretty close to that example.

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 28, 2014 at 9:53 PM

      Apologies for the wrong term, lol, I know they are hand/arm holes. The seams and arm holes would have worked if I had made the cloak the same size as the one in Costume Closeup. I did create a half circle, but it was considerably smaller than the pattern, so everything went funky. Oh well, lessons learned!

    • Katie Lovely

      January 28, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      Ah, I gotcha. I was half afraid I was talking out of my butt, since I didn't have the book in front of me, so I see what you're saying. Out of curiosity, did you take the mantel shape out of the same source?

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 28, 2014 at 10:47 PM

      Yes, from the mantle in Costume Closeup. It worked much better with the shorter length. The other option looks like it would have been to cut armholes and put fur trim around them too.

  • Eleonora Amalia

    January 28, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    The cape is pretty and the hood is gorgeous!! Well hopefully you won't end up like Ned Stark or the hood won't be needed anymore, lol. Colouring the fur? Seriously? It's like the best idea ever, looks very authentic! How come I never thought of that!

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 28, 2014 at 9:56 PM

      Yes, I hope I don't end up like ANY of the Starks! Coloring the fur – well at least I could offer something useful from this ill-fated project, lol!

    • Eleonora Amalia

      January 28, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      Well, I guess you also warned me that even though cloaks look pretty simple, they're NOT. Good to know. It always seemed a cut-a-circle-and-be-happy garment to me.

  • Caroline

    January 28, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    I love the shape of this! I like how it allows for your arms to move around. The green one I have, I cut just a big rectangle and then another rectangle to make the hood. It was super easy but my arms get kinda tangled up. I'm so jelly you get to make all these awesome things and get to wear in Williamsburg! I'm living vicariously through you 😀 You will have so much fun!

  • Kate

    January 29, 2014 at 5:41 AM

    For this particular reason I've never attempted a cloak. Not to mention other costumers/reactors that nit pick every last detail…I'd rather just be cold. 🙂

  • Laura Morrigan

    January 29, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    I adore it! I would love something like that for Winter! Going on my list! I already want to make a maroon faux fur trimmed jacket.

  • unicornemporium

    January 29, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Love the color and the collar! I have been Jonesing for that red cloak for quite some time now. I actually have a perfect red wool in my stash just waiting for it.

  • fixitfaerie

    January 29, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    It turned out so pretty. I love the pleating on the back of the hood. Hopefully, this is going to be the only piece you will have so much trouble with. lol Paula


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