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Chertsey Museum Fashion Collection - Pelisse

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

“If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse.” - Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion

Visiting Chertsey museum I discovered a jewel in the field of historical fashion.

"Miss Olive Matthews put together her costume collection during the early and middle parts of the 20th century. Now housed at Chertsey Museum, with dedicated galleries and Keeper, it consists of over six thousand items of men’s, women’s and children’s fashionable dress and accessories, dating from the 1600s to the present day. The quality and richness of many of the garments rivals those found in much larger institutions and the collection has been described by the V&A as nationally significant".

- quote from Fashion in Focus by Grace Evans, Keeper of Costume, Chertsey Museum; the book explores the most important pieces from the Olive Matthews Collection, to purchase a copy please see:

Chertsey Museum is in fact housed in a Regency Town House. Following my residency at The Regency Town House, Brighton & Hove ( it is therefore inimitably suitable and I am delighted by the fact that The Regency Collection I produce will be exhibited there from October 2020 - January 2021.

To add to my design research in that regard and with advice from Keeper of Costume, Grace Evans, the pieces I'd arranged to see included 2 pelisses, a pair of short boots, 2 Spencer jackets and 2 bodices.

"English women's styles (often referred to as "regency") followed the same general trend of raised waistlines as French styles, even when the countries were at war. The style was very often worn in white to denote a high social status (especially in its earlier years); only women solidly belonging to what in England was known as the "genteel" classes could afford to wear the pale, easily soiled garments of the era. The look was popularized in Britain by Emma, Lady Hamilton, who designed such garments for her performances of poses in imitation of classical antiquity ("attitudes"), which were a sensation throughout Europe. The high-waisted cut of the dress was also applied to outer garments, such as the pelisse. The Empire silhouette contributed to making clothes of the 1795-1820 period generally less confining and cumbersome than high-fashion clothes of the earlier 18th and later 19th centuries".

Pelisse 1 1810-1818

Though of late I've seen many images of pelisses made from silk and satin in beautiful bright colours I'd never seen an image of one of white cotton. For more information about the pelisse as a Regency garment please see:

Beautiful buttons and Rouleau loops

From Ackermann's Costume Plates - Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828

What I wasn't expecting from my visit was how directly the pieces we'd be looking at would mirror my thoughts and the direction of my research at the exact moment of my visit. For example, I'd latterly come across this Ackerman image and thanks to the Olive Matthews collection and Grace, not only was I now looking at a single pelisse reflecting that open front and vertical scalloped edging, but in fact two. The second we looked at even had a plain top which a Regency woman might have been able to fit under a Spencer jacket, as shown in the image, albeit that she would have been hiding the pelisse's wonderful shoulders.

Pelisse 2 1818-1820

Both the shoulders and the cuffs are formed using gathering to create a bulbous shape that seems to mirror the shape of a poppy head, perfect for a design I have in my head.


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