Clouds make frequent appearances in literature of the period, which can give us an idea of their variety and how they were worn. In her autobiography, Clearing in the West, notable Canadian Nellie McClung writes of having a "home-made red and black 'cloud' to wear in the cold weather". Frances Monck, in her book My Canadian Leaves: An Account of a Visit to Canada in 1864-1865, mentions her intention "to get a white cloud" describing it as "a long knitted scarf, which goes all over your cap and round and round your throat, and ties in long ends, and hangs over your back" (189). Agnes Macdonald, the second wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, when writing about what Canadians wear to go for a ride in a "tobogan" for Murray's Magazine, writes of "the fleecy folds of a 'cloud'--that peculiarly Canadian wrap which, consisting of a fringed strip of loosely knitted or woven thick soft wool nine feet long and eighteen inches wide, is both comfortable and becoming" (84). Macdonald gives very specific directions for wearing the cloud:
"To arrange properly must be passed over the
forehead, leaving one end half as long again as
the other; both ends are then crossed behind the
neck and drawn forward. The longest end passed once or twice about the neck--letting it lie snugly about
ears, throat, cheeks, and chin--is next brought to meet the shorter one, when both are looped together, and
the fringed ends fall over the shoulder." (84)
The above picture from the McCord Museum shows Lady Dufferin wearing what is presumably a cloud in a manner similar to that described by Macdonald. The cloud was clearly a practical, as well as stylish, garment. The lengths of wool wrapped around one's head and neck would provide good insulation from the cold and keep out the biting winds. Anyone who has experienced a Manitoban winter can appreciate the benefits that would accrue from having a scarf like a cloud.
I hope that this introduction to the Canadian cloud has peaked your interest. Next up will be information on how clouds were made in the period and some tips for making your own so that you can bundle up like a true 19th century Canadian.
Note: With the exception of Clearing in the West and where links are provided, all cited sources can be found by searching Google Books.