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  • Object:

    Evening cape and bag

  • Place of origin:

    United States (made)

  • Date:

    1951 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Etches, Matilda (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pleated silk taffeta

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Matilda Etches-Homan

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Fashion, Room 40, case CA13 []

This crisply pleated cape is made up from a single piece of black silk taffeta. The lower layer of the lightweight silk fabric clings to the wearer, whilst the top layer hangs in stiff, rigidly sculptural folds. The cape was provided with a silk bag for storage to preserve the pleating.

Matilda Etches is now almost entirely forgotten except as a theatre, ballet and opera costume-maker. However, she was an extremely talented couturier, whose fashionable clothes were innovative and very carefully made. The design for the 'Butterfly' cape was patented in 1953, though this version was made in 1951. The original 'Butterfly' cape was created in 1949 for the ballerina Dame Ninette de Valois, who was the founder-director of the Royal Ballet.

Physical description

Evening cape of black silk taffeta with dust bag.

Place of Origin

United States (made)


1951 (made)


Etches, Matilda (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Pleated silk taffeta

Object history note

This was part of the Cecil Beaton collection, donated by Matilda Etches-Homan. The original design was made for Dame Ninette de Valois, the ballerina.

The original patent for this design was 169,670 1953

The following quote relates to our red & maroon ribbon version of this cape, T.185-1969.

From correspondence of Madeleine Ginsburg to Matilda Etches-Homan, letter written 9 June 1969, following acceptance of the Etches collection & dossier

"The image of our 20th century costume collection has received a great boost through you! For the first time clothes from this century have been chosen to show the meeting of our advisory committee - a honour usually reserved only for medieval embroideries. They are to see the Butterfly cape and the West African cotton dress."

Descriptive line

Evening cape 'Butterfly' of black silk taffeta with dust bag, designed by Matilda Etches, United States, 1951

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Fashion : An Anthology by Cecil Beaton. London : H.M.S.O., 1971


Silk taffeta


Formal wear; Fashion; Evening wear; Women's clothes

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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