Fashion Moment: The Cape

Since at least medieval times, capes have had a recurring role in fashion. More constant in its utilitarian role in military uniforms, capes have still managed to work their way into fashionable wardrobes every few years. It seems that this autumn may be another of these moments.

Though originally a functional garment, capes have come to represent luxury and ladylike elegance. A style often favored by royalty, the sleeveless garment has a regal reputation. Indeed, the construction often makes them less than practical, relegating them to the realms of fashion statements and, especially, formal events (its sister being the plush opera cloak, of course). They are, after all, impossibly chic.

But that doesn’t make them any less popular as evidenced already on the AW19 catwalks. JW Anderson’s show opened with a dreamy collared cape in grey. With little embellishment, the cape speaks for itself. Victoria Beckham reimagined the cape in two of her ladylike skirt suits. The jackets, though sporting sleeves, were worn over the shoulders with a strap horizontally securing the jacket to the body, transforming the outwear into a thoroughly cape-like silhouette.

Marc Jacobs AW19 via British Vogue
Marc Jacobs AW19 via British Vogue

It is Marc Jacobs, though, who really advocates for the cape for next season. With no less than seven in his AW collection, he shows how versatile a cape can be. In leopard print, tweed, or orderly windowpane, a cape is transformed through something as simple as pattern. An oversized cape with obvious peacoat inspiration shows that capes can still be pragmatic. But it’s the fantasy of a crisp light blue cape – plain except for a scarf in the same material wrapped around the neck – and one adorned with feathers and sequins that remind us just how fun capes can be, returning them to their regal reputation. These two capes capture all that the outerwear – and those who wear it – can aspire to be.

They are what superheroes and princesses wear, after all. 

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