Capes have been around for quite some time, thousands of years in fact, though they didn’t exactly look like the more traditional capes of the future, and weren’t called capes by name. They did, however, have similarities in the fabrics used, the drape of the fabrics and their general purposes, which were to cover the upper part of the body for warmth, and protection from the elements.
The first real capes on the scene were worn in the Middle Ages (1100-1500) in Europe. They were originally called chaperons (Medieval French word for hood), which were garments with a hood that had a short attached cape. Chaperons were worn by pulling them over the head or fastening them in the front. Oftentimes the hood was pulled away from the head area and left to hang while the short cape section draped around the neck and shoulders. The cape edges were sometimes trimmed with decorative embellishments or cut in circular or scalloped fashion. Wool was the predominant fabric but lighter materials were used during the warmer seasons in Europe.
Both men and women in the lower classes wore chaperons, and it wasn’t until sometime later that capes were considered more fashion inspiring coverings. The hooded style remained a staple garment through the end of the Middle Ages.
Do Capes Keep you Warm?
Depending on the style and fabrics used, a cape will keep an individual warm. Obviously, any wool or wool-blend cape that is lined with insulation type fabric is going to be warmer than a thin, cloth cape or coat. Bulky, full length coats tend to create hot spots in the arms, arm creases and chest areas while a good wool cape allows more upper body breathability and arm movement so there isn’t the feeling of confinement and the stifling feelings that a regular coat creates. Capes keep a person warm and comfortable as they can be worn inside as more of a fashion statement; whereas, a heavy coat is usually removed once indoors. The warmth of a cape is consistent and allows for breathing room, but those aspects depend on the cape’s length, lining and overall bulk.
When did Capes become Fashionable?
Capes became fashionable in the Victorian and Edwardian eras in England (1830s through early 1900s), and their real heyday was the 1890s. Capes and capelets of those periods were fashioned in all kinds of styles and fabrics from wool and wool melton to more luxurious fabrics such as satin, velvet, taffeta, chiffon and crepe. They were further trimmed with beading, ribbon, lace, braid, appliqué and embroidery. They were elegant garments that added more design elements to capes, which added to their rise as a staple fashion favorite.
Are Capes in Style for 2017?
Capes continue to be in style for 2017 as top designers show them in current runway collections. They are paired with dresses, slacks and jeans to make a cape finishing statement like a suit jacket would. The fashion trend with capes does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Though considerably smaller and more of an accessory, capelets are part of the same trend. There are cape designs for everyone’s fashion style and taste and there are a wide array of looks and choices that continue to evolve through 2017. Embroidery, military flourishes, and more fabric options will move the trend forward.
Are Capes Practical?
Capes are practical because they are lightweight yet provide warmth. They are gauged for almost every season and type of weather. You don’t have to struggle with bulkiness if carrying it over your arm, and they provide a more polished and finished look to evening wear as opposed to a long and cumbersome coat. They aren’t as heavy, bulky and difficult to get in and out of as a regular full length coat, plus they travel well and don’t take up a lot of space. Capes can be folded compactly, put away in a drawer, clothing storage box, or hung on a coat hanger in a closet without squeezing out other clothing items. Depending on the fabric, wrinkling is minimal.
Capes are definitely practical in comparison to regular coats yet still have a unique style and attention to detail, which makes them classic clothing pieces that retain their fashion value for years to come.