Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Courage to Wear a Cape

I had an interesting encounter the other weekend, Fashion Minions. I was at a barbecue. You know, that thing, in the back yard, where you burn the meat? This was no a high fashion event ~ suburban in location, and 30-something anti-hipsters in attendance. These were not my friends, I should add, but the AB's. Now, where was I? Oh yes . . . the encounter.

So there I was, the two-year-in girlfriend amongst His Friends of twenty years or so. Also in attendance was a Very Fresh Girlfriend of one of the fringe members of said group. Clearly nervous, she enters stage right, a lovely fashionable young thing.

Now, to set the scene, I am wearing a little white dress (see future blog entry), tights, and riding boots ~ very de mode. However, it is cold and damp, so over it all I have my favorite black double-breasted rain cape (I happen to own three capes total).

black double breasted & belted from Max Studio, $130, thrifted vintage cream wool, no label, $25, faux fur from H&M $15

Now this new girl, either in an awkward attempt to make conversation, or just because she is, well, a bitch, says, "Oh, is that a cape? Not everyone can wear a cape. I should never even attempt it." It was the tone that threw me. It was said in that way of catty southern ladies, "Oh, she has put on a few pounds, bless her little heart." I simply drifted away and on to a far more interesting conversation on the relative merits of DC versus Marvel comic books. (Marvel baby, all the way.)
To the meat of the matter. I disagree with the principle of the statement made by Very Fresh Girlfriend as well as the execution. I think anyone can wear a cape. They are delightful fun, one feels rather comic-book-ish (Marvel, I hope, not DC). The belted cape is a good option to prevent loss of shape.

On the practical side the cape allows you to layer in fun and flattering ways. You can wear full or puffy sleeved jackets and then throw the cape on for extra warmth or rain protection. On the impractical side it is difficult to carry a shoulder bag with a cape. (You'll notice most of the street shots bellow have clutches or handbags.)

Capes can be mod or retro, outrageous or rather tame. On can take basic black and give it some pep, or add an air of mystery to an essentially mundane outfit. And, they have been all over the runways for the past couple seasons.
Birna Reykjavik Fashion Festival, Fall 2011

If you are slightly shorter of stature, a short cape is probably a better option. Regardless, if cut in the right way in can disguise rather than enhance the chest.

And they come for a long and distinguished tradition.
1895 Emile Pingat cape via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1905 Jean-Phillipe Worth evening wrap via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1933-1934 Elsa Sciaparelli cape via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"A mackintosh cape, one of the thinnest and lightest possible to procure. should always be carried to protect the shoulders in case of a sudden shower, and a fur cape for chilly evenings or east wind will be found a most comfortable addition." ~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

2011 RT Convention ~ Richelle Mead, Jeanne Stein, Nicole Peeler, and Gail Carriger (in a cape)


  1. That Emile Pingat cape is AMAZING! I feel a fabric store trip coming on! :D

  2. I'm afraid that the comic books I could come by in this remote place of the art universe and utterly enjoyed were mostly DC products. XD;; The reason is that I concentrated on Batman stories first (those books are quite pricey here, so I have to choose wisely, or pray that it's good without reading it first and buy online) while trying to avoid Frank Miller. *ducks from flying stones* I tried to follow the single books, but tend to forget the publishing dates.

    Your cape is adorable! I bet the first thing said person shopped for after coming home was a cape like yours.

    To be honest, I'm all for full cloaks, preferrably hooded, coming back into fashion. Imagine an evening at the opera with a flowing mass of gorgeousness turning you into a mediaeval queen... *dreamy sigh* There's hardly anything as handy or cool as a long cloak worn the proper way.

  3. Oh Miss Snotty-Pants was just jealous. Her boyfriend probably commented on how sexy you looked and she got all insecure.

    I think capes are awesome. They add a touch of class that jackets just don't have.

  4. I love capes. I have two: a very dramatic red and black number my mom had made for me when I was in high school, and a shorter, almost military-style one I bought in France one very cold summer about 10 years ago. Both have mandarin collars; the red one has a black frog at the throat and the French one has intricate brass buttons all the way down. I can carry a small-mediumish purse under either as long as the strap is long enough that the bag itself rests around my hip or so; otherwise I look like mu back is hunched up. The only downside I have found is that they are difficult to drive in, or at lease require a lot of arranging around me before I can drive. They are fabulous.

  5. Your black rain cape is darling, and that purple YSL cape is gorgeous.

    I have always loved the look of a cape and the Marvel feeling they bring to the wearer. I have got to start carrying my Purse (with all it's Mary Poppins capabilities) differently or keep a small clutch in it so I can have a quick change for a cape.

  6. What a load of rubbish! 'I should never attempt it', indeed!

    Sadly, I missed the blog about the Max Studio rain cape - they no longer had them by the time I saw it...oh the pain of missing out on perfection!

  7. I love capes. :) I have three. One my kids call the Hobbit cloak because of the pointy hood with black tassel, dark purple color, gold knot-work trim, and Celtic knot-work clasp. Plus I'm rather on the short side (4'11" proper hobbit size ;) )

    The next one is called Cavalier because it only goes to ren-faires and I added strings so it can be worn on one shoulder with the ties going on the opposite side.

    And the third we call the blanket because that is what I mainly use it for when camping. Plus it gets nice and comfy around a camp fire.

    I like capes on comics characters and the vast majority of my CoH characters all have capes. Because nothing says superhero or truly evil villain like a nice cape.

  8. i've decided i must have a cape for fall. so now i get all summer to find one! thanks for sharing gail!!

  9. A cape! I hadn't thought of that before. It would be perfect for here in the South (and you are correct, we do excuse our tacky comments with "bless her heart". We're caught!). In the winter the South is often too hot for a full heavy coat, but too cool to go without any protection. A cape would cover the arms and protect from the wind/rain without constriction and thus no overheating.

    Thank you Miss Gail!

  10. Ever since seeing Barnabus Collins in "Dark Shadows" and his Inverness Cape, I have been hooked:) Not *quite* so fond of ponchos though.


  11. I live in Georgia, USA and I only use a cape in the winter. Coats are too much and there is just something about swinging a cape around your shoulders that is cool (pun intended).

    When I was pregnant, many, many years ago, a cape was all I could find that would go around me. This was back in the 70s.

  12. This makes me want to wear a cape to work. Working at target, I have the option of merely red and khaki (one which has the potential to flatter, the other which does not) and I happen to own a red cape (of the little red riding hood variety). I wonder what they would say...

  13. Zara has just opened in Sydney and they had a fabulous camel cape. Sadly I think they sold out in the first 3 minutes the shop was open. (People are still queueing to get in, we've been a bit fashion deprived down here obviously!)

  14. Pfft. Anyone who doesn't like capes has no sense of style.

    I've only got the one--brown flannel with a faux-fur collar--but it's one of the most charming pieces I own.

  15. ooooo. i want that Yves St. Laurent cape...badly. But really badly.

  16. I've never been a huge fan of Fendi, but in their last few collections they've included some realllly nice capes. There was a belted one last year that I would have killed for.

    Fresh-Girl sounds simply awful though… trying and mask nervousness with condescension. Bless her heart indeed!

  17. Capes are awesome. :) What the others have said about Fresh Girlfriend just being jealous/insecure.

    To both our gracious host and ashura-oh, for a truly excellent DC comic try Blue Beetle. It was cancelled for a few years, but apparently will be starting up again soon. *claps with glee* The current Blue Beetle is a Hispanic American teenager named Jaime (pronounced HI - may). His mom rocks. :)

  18. Seconds baker-kitty's recommendation of Blue Beetle. It is quite wonderful. As is Booster Gold.

    I think your capes look awesome, particularly that black one and I am sure you looked fabulous in it. I would quite like a cape since I am very sensitive to temperature and yet constantly putting on and removing a jacket becomes tiresome. I would probably also get a giddy thrill from having a cape and feeling like a superhero. If there were very few people around I would probably run around pretending I could fly ^^

  19. I adore capes. Good on you for wearing them; and for finding a better conversation.

    I'd love a cape or two. I haven't yet found any let alone any I like yet but I love this blog for the cape focus. I hadn't thought about feeling like a superhero wearing one but if I get one in future you can be sure I will now.


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