By Kathy Hammel
“If I thought it would not tempt her to go out in sharp winds, and grow coarse, I would send her a new hat and pelisse.”
Sir Walter Elliot
In 1799, as the 18th Century was quietly taking its last breath and the craze was for all things classical, the spencer and pelisse were making their debut. The spencer– a close-fitting, tight sleeved, waist length jacket modeled on a gentleman’s riding coat, but without tails– is said to be the invention of one Lord Spencer. While references agree that Lord Spencer inadvertently engendered the style through a mishap; what exactly the mishap was, however, is not generally agreed upon. It seems the gentleman in question either had the tails torn from his riding coat when he fell from his horse or had them singed off after he backed too close to the fire while warming himself. Either way, Lord Spencer apparently found the tail-less riding coat to his liking and instructed his tailor to make him several more in the same style. It wasn’t long before the fair sex took up the style (note 1) — the bottom of the jacket raised to match the high waists of the current fashion– and a Regency classic was born.