Baby It’s Cold Outside: Outerwear in the Georgian Period

When I volunteered in an historic house museum built in 1750 we once featured a period red wool cape that I could not imagine would be very warm in the cold, Maine winter.  At that time fashions here were very similar to those in England, particularly in the family who lived in our museum as they had just come here in 1750 from London. I am including the entire Regency Era 1795 to 1837.

A reader asked me about this last spring and I did some research but quickly found that many people more in the know than I have written extensively about it.

One such site: tells me that the primary forms of outer wear for women were:

In these illustrations I found  on Wikimedia I am, in some cases, guessing what category a particular item falls into. I base the guess on description and captions/labels or other information I found. The pictures of a type of outerwear are below the description.


A short jacket based on a trend in men’s wear but without tails. These were supposedly named after the Earl Spencer.


An overdress or coat dress, the pelisse fit relatively close to the figure (though not tight) and was styled along the same high-waisted lines as the dress of the day. Pelisses were often lined or edged with fur and, in fashionable circles, more or less replaced the fur-lined cloaks of the earlier periods. (note 3) Pelisses were also heavily and variously trimmed with fur, swansdown, contrasting fabric, frog fastenings, etc. practically from their beginning.



According to Wikimedia:

A Pelise was originally a short fur lined or fur trimmed jacket – without the fur lining or trim called a dolman jacket – that was usually worn hanging loose over the left shoulder of hussar light cavalry soldiers, ostensibly to prevent sword cuts. In early 19th-century Europe, when military clothing was often used as inspiration for fashionable ladies’ garments, the term was applied to a woman’s long, fitted coat with set-in sleeves and the then-fashionable Empire waist. Although initially these Regency-era pelisses copied the Hussars’ fur and braid, they soon lost these initial associations, and in fact were often made entirely of silk and without fur at all. They did, however, tend to retain traces of their military inspiration with frog fastenings and braid trim.

(We often read of a woman fetching her pelisse to be taken on a walk in the park with a suitor or friend.)

Based on the “Riding Coat” this was belted and opened to reveal the skirt beneath.  I wonder if that was to help you get on the horse or stay on it.

Cloaks or Mantles were basically short capes. with a cloak being more shaped. neither item would have had arms.


And, of course there were full capes although I have read they were going out of fashion in the Regency period.

Women rarely went about with their heads uncovered for cleanliness and warmth. And of course they slept in a night cap, but hats and shoes are for another day.

Men wore greatcoats, sometimes with several capes above the back and shoulders.  I believe the various capes improved the shedding of water and aided warmth.You can see the several tiers of cape on coat of the gentleman to the far left.


At Jane Austen’s World ( the blog owner, Vic Sanborn, discusses at length how people stayed warm in the period in Britain and the colonies.

She tells us that women wore many clothes indoors and added even more outside. It reminds me of my mom stuffing me into a snowsuit!

…,layered clothing was the key to keeping warm. All but the most fashionable regency women would have worn several petticoats (even 4 or 5), stockings and/or socks, leather boots or shoes, a dress over a chemise, a thick shawl, fingerless mittens, and the ubiquitous cap as they went about their housewively duties. Outdoors, they would have added jackets, scarves, kid gloves, and a hat over their caps to keep warm.


What she says about men’s wear makes me think these clothes would have limited movement.

Gentlemen wore drawers and sometimes a girdle known as a stomacher, woolen waistcoasts over muslin or linen shirts, and a coat to complete the indoor ensembles. Their cravats and high shirt points protected necks, tall leather boots protected feet,  leather gloves, beaver hats, and multi-caped greatcoats completed the outdoor ensemble.


In the TV series OUTLANDER, based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series of the same name, we see Claire being dressed by Mrs. Fitz the housekeeper of Castle Leoch.  The article of clothing I found most interesting was a bustle like affair, shaped like a sausage and filled with batting or wool  tied on to the small of the back. It may have been designed as a bustle to add shape, but I also thought how warm it would keep that are of the back I find particularly sensitive to cold.

But, as Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World points out, layering was the key to warmth.  It’s often the same today. We dress in layers here in Maine, especially in autumn, winter and spring.  We are all still the same animals as our ancestors; even with central heating and high-tech materials.