My cloak is come home. I like it very much, and can now exclaim with delight, like J. Bond at hay-harvest, “This is what I have been looking for these three years.
-Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 2, 1799
For many years, the Regency Red Cloak was the staple of winter warmth in both England and the Americas. According to Jessamyn Brown, they were “common wear for several decades. Well-established garb by the onset of the Regency, they lasted into the 1830s, although they were out of style by then.” One researcher has pointed out that they were worn mainly in the country, (though the following fashion plate from the latter Regency shows a dressy “Town” version) and most often with Morning Dress, for walking, shopping, etc. Plush trim was also occasionally added, for a bit of dash.
Perhaps the most famous illustrator of the red walking cloak is Diana Sperling, who often captured scenes of young ladies out walking in her sketchbook, Mrs. Hurst Dancing. For some reason, the red cloak also became a symbol of the wandering gypsies (one wonders if they were worn by the Gypsy woman that accosted Harriet Smith, in Emma) and who could forget the role they played during the famous Battle of Fishguard, when the women of the town, dressed in their scarlet cloaks and tall Welsh hats were mistaken by the French for British Regulars!