ca. 1820
probably American
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Annie M. Colson, 1929
Accession Number:
Not on view
This is the quintessential women's outerwear garment of the early 19th century. Due to the nature of the fashions of the time, the pelisse had to be very fitted and tailored to better cover the insubstantial textile of the gowns underneath. Therefore they tended to be very fashionable and follow the lines of Empire dress. The historical references in the puffed sleeves and the military influences of the braid trim here are indicative of the time and masterfully executed in this example.

The Empire silhouette is readily identified with its origins in the chiton of ancient Greco-Romans, which was a tubular garment draped from the shoulders and sometimes belted beneath the bust. Several re-interpretations have occurred throughout costume history but none have been as notable as the period bridging the rectangular panierred skirts of the 18th century and the conical hoop skirts of the 19th century. The neoclassic style was adopted in all forms of decoration after the French Revolution and was upheld during the Napoleonic Wars partly due to Napoleon Bonaparte's (1769-1821) alliance with Greco-Roman principles. In fashion, the style began as children's wear made from fine white cotton, but was adopted by women in the form of a tubular dress with skirts that were gathered under the bust with some fullness over a pad at the back. As the style progressed the skirts began to flatten at the front and solely gather from the bodice at the center back. The style persisted until the 1820s when the waist slowly lowered and the skirts became more bell shaped.