Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

Department

Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Linda Welters

Abstract

Feather pelerine capes are featured in publications as collection highlights of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, and Historic New England and described as superlative examples of the nineteenth century’s fascination with exotic fauna and the natural world. Made from three-quarter circles of undyed cotton, the capes are lined with down and covered in peacock, pheasant, and fowl feathers arranged in geometric and floral patterns. All the text surrounding feather pelerines is clear about one thing: there is no scholarly consensus on where these capes came from or who made them.

The aim of my research is to advance the study of feather pelerines by uncovering their origins and the roles they played in Western fashion during the nineteenth century, as well as to understand why the biographical data surrounding feather pelerines was forgotten. The first article argues that feather pelerines were produced in Commercolly, India, and that capes inspired by feather pelerines may also have been made in New England and England. The second article investigates how feather pelerines evolved in social memory over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as fashions and the role of fashion within museums changed.

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