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Pelerines, the fashionable garment of the 19th century

As part of the research project Fashioning Belgium, Luka Gesquière and Noortje De Meyere will conduct research focusing on five shoulder mantles from the collection of the Royal Museums of Art & History in Brussels. These garments, which are typical for the 19th century, are known by various names including mantelets, pelerines, camails, (small) cape and collet. The shoulder mantles were made from different textiles such as velvet and silk and were often adorned with ostrich feathers or pearls. Due to the richness of these materials, the pelerines were most likely worn at soirées as they exude a conspicuous "m'as-tu vu" quality. One of the pelerines examined belonged to Marie-Henriëtte van Oostenrijk (1836-1902), the wife of King Leopold II of Belgium.


The research will involve a thorough Prownian analysis of each garment, focusing on the used materials in the pelerines. The museum has limited information on each pelerine, including the donor, year of donation, approximate date, and a brief description of the garment. Only the mantelet belonging to Marie-Henriëtte van Oostenrijk has an additional piece of information in the form of a letter. Furthermore, the research will provide a historical overview of this garment type and a discussion of terminology. How was the pelerine worn and on which occasions? Are there any trends visible in the different shoulder mantles? How did shoulder mantles respond to the contemporary ideas of beauty? 

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