Stern Brothers embroidered silk velvet evening cloak, c.1918
Stern Brothers, founded in 1867 in New York, was famous for its French imports and elegant doormen wearing top hats. The labels of the Paris fashion houses were removed and replaced with the Stern Brothers label.
The luxurious silk velvet fabric of this plush cloak falls in graceful, full folds from the shoulder yoke. The cloak has the easy, unstructured comfort of a cape with just a suggestion of sleeves. I love the sensual fullness of the ruffled hem. The scarf-collar is weighted to hold the cloak closed. There is no other closure. The cloak is lined with blue silk chiffon.
The shoulders and lower sides are hand embroidered with large blossoms of blue silk floss and burnished metallic gold cord—see the bottom picture. The shoulder embroidery is particularly noteworthy (5th picture from the bottom.) Though the pattern is abstract, it has the feeling of aristocratic insignia—an emblem of membership among the elite of family or of taste.
This evening cloak would have been perfect to wear to the opera. In 1918, as now, going to the opera was as much a social statement as an opportunity to hear great music. In the early 20th century, the Metropolitan Opera was still a relatively new company, catering to very wealthy parvenus, who could not get boxes at the established Academy of Music.
The initial group of subscribers at the Metropolitan Opera were families considered to be social climbers, including the Morgan, Roosevelt, and Vanderbilt families. I can imagine one of these ladies making a grand entrance into her box at the Metropolitan in this fine cloak, as beautiful today as it was then.
The condition is almost excellent. Along the lower side folds, the velvet has a faint discoloration, which gets lost in the fullness and does not spoil the appearance of the cloak.
One size fits all. The cloak is 48" from the shoulder to the hem.