A pelerine is a small cape that covers the shoulders.[1] Historically, the pelerine possibly originated in a type of 15th century armor padding that protected the neck and shoulders by itself, if the padded fabric was reinforced internally with metal, and/or acted as padding between armor and the skin in the neck-to-shoulder region. The pelerine often had fasteners so that pauldrons could be attached.[2] In the world of fashion, it was most popular during the mid- to late nineteenth century in Europe and the Americas.[3]

1830s pelerine, muslin with whitework embroidery.

The word comes from the French "pèlerine" (pilgrim) and is perhaps a reference to the small capes worn by many of the women in Jean-Antoine Watteau's 1717 painting Pilgrimage to Cythera.[3]

Pelerines could be made of various materials, including muslin and silk. They could be adorned with embroidery, beadwork, ruffles,[4] or even featherwork.[5] Crocheted pelerines were also common.[6]

Layered muslin pelerines were popular in the 1830s as an option to drape over the top of the large sleeves fashionable at that period.[7] Along with tippets, they helped emphasise the fashionable width of the sleeves and the shoulderline of the decade.[8]

By the late nineteenth century, pelerines tended to be seen as less formal garments and were often worn at home.[6][3]




  1. ^ Lewandowski, Elizabeth J. (2011). The complete costume dictionary. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 224. ISBN 9780810877856.
  2. ^ "Pelerine with plates "Tristan"".
  3. ^ a b c "Pelerine". FIDM Museum Blog. March 10, 2010. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  4. ^ "Pelerine Cape by A. Walles & Co". RISD Museum. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  5. ^ "Pelerine". Victoria and Albert Museum. 2019-06-18. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  6. ^ a b Weaver, Jane (1862). "Pelerine Shawl In Crochet; Fringe For The Pelerine". NYPL Digital Collections. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  7. ^ Staff writer. "Pelerine, American, 1830s". The Collection Online. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  8. ^ Tortora, Phyllis G; Eubank, Keith (1994). A survey of historic costume : a history of Western dress (2nd ed.). New York: Fairchild Publications. p. 281. ISBN 1563670038.