I feel sorry for the cape. Far less significant items get a place on that all-important capsule wardrobe list, whilst the poor old cape doesn’t even get a look in. Far from a staple, I think most women consider the look a indulgence – not really a ‘proper’ coat, sort of like a heavy scarf, and also pretty space-consuming; you need an unusually deep wardrobe to store the thing. So, all in all, I get it. I understand why brands only release the odd cape each winter, and why you may have felt five times your usual size when trying to wear the look in the past. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s the capsule piece I’d ditch all my other coats in favour of.
The reason? They’re just so flattering. I don’t know many women who aren’t insecure about some bits of their bodies, and capes eliminate all that drama – no fashion item since the oversized knit has been so kind to body-conscious women. And with its wide cut and billowing fabric, it serves to make everything else look smaller – team with skinny trousers and a slim top, and you’ve got yourself a tiny-looking frame. Granted, we’re not all after that look, but if you’re into illusion dressing, it’s the mother of the genre.
Capes also solve my biggest winter wardrobe dilemma – fitting coats over knitwear. Pre-cape, those final, frenetic five minutes before I run out the door each morning were spent trying on every layering piece in my armoury, from cocoon styles to Crombies – but if it’s a thick old roll neck with, heaven forbid, wide sleeves, squeezing a coat on top leaves you stuffed like a waddling Michelin man. On the contrary, the cape is fuss-free – allowing you to layer up as much as the weather requires.
Then, not to be overlooked, there’s how it feels when you’re wearing one. Capes have long been a status symbol, even since their inception (dated as far back as 1066 by some historians) they’ve been wielded by those in power – the Pope, Napoleon, Superman… they all have the cape in common. And it’s this legacy makes them so much more than a figure-swamping, chunky knit-enabling device; stepping out in the look makes you feel powerful like only that statement shoulder and dramatic swoosh can. The FROW’s penchant for draping coats and jackets? Nothing says ‘I’m important’ like it, and we have the cape to thank.