The author has graciously shared with readers of the Victorian Web this passage from the second edition of her Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000 (2000), published by A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd., which retains copyright. Readers wishing to obtain the book can e-mail the following address:

Evening cloaks gradually declined in favour during this period although the Talma cloak, knee-length with a wide turnover collar (which might be quilted), was worn during the 1850s. By the 1870s-80s evening coats were considered smarter but they might have a cape and frequently a velvet collar.

Sherlock Holmes wears an Inversness or Ulster topcoat while Dr. Watson wears what seems to be a long version of the Wellesley in Sidney Paget's illustrations of A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories that appeared in the 1901-02 Strand Magazine. The second man from the right (with his back to the viewer) wears a Chesterfield in the right-hand image. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]

In the 1850s-60s a single-breasted loose coat reaching the knees, with wide sleeves and buttoning higher as the period proceeded, was known as a 'sac' overcoat, a term also applied to other loose coats in the 1850s such as the double-breasted, thigh-length Wellesley, often bordered with fur and fastened with frogging, or the single-breasted Palmerston with wide cuffless sleeves, broad collar and lapels and flapped pockets. The popular Chesterfield was joined in the late 1850s by the equally popular Inverness, a large single-breasted knee-length loose overcoat with a deep cape, fairly formal in smooth dark-coloured cloth, or countrified and suitable for travelling in plaid wool or tweed. Also for travelling was the Ulster, double- or single-breasted, with a cape in the 1870s, and reaching almost to the ankles; the double-breasted Gladstone of the same date also had a cape but was shorter and edged with astrakhan. The raglan overcoat, which appeared in the 1890s, was full and long with a fly-front fastening and raglan sleeves; a version in waterproofed material replaced the earlier mackintosh.

The covert overcoat was very popular from the 1880s with the younger 'sporty' set; only a few inches longer than a jacket, it was cut straight with side vents, fly-front fastening closing high, top-stitched seams, flapped hip pockets and welted breast and ticket pocket; it might also be cut with raglan sleeves in the 1890s and was then called a raglan covert.


Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume, 1200-2000. 2nd edition. A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd; Chicago: New Amsterdam Books, 2000.

Last modified 2 December 2013