Monday, October 20, 2014

Capes Galore


Have you noticed how capes are "in" at the moment? This is not the first fall/winter season where they've been featured, but this is the year I am noticing them more, especially worn by women in downtown SF, or on the subway.

I've been wanting to make a cape for awhile, though capes can be tricky to wear. Depending on the style, a seat belt can be a challenge, for example, as can a shoulder-strap- or cross-body purse.

I've been thinking about different styles of capes. You can go to any e-tailer, like, and enter "cape" into the search field and see capes galore.

For this little survey, I reviewed cape patterns on ebay and etsy. Capes (and ponchos, which are similar) were a big trend in the 70s—"my" high school era—but capes are well represented in all decades since home sewing patterns have been available.

A cape is basically a body tent and the challenge with a cape is: what to do with the arms and hands? It seems to me that most capes fall into one of three categories, vis-à-vis hands:

The Royal

This style of cape hangs on the shoulders and has no accommodation for hands.

That means that the wearer's hands have to emerge from the center front. This form of cape is used more for drama (opera, weddings, costumes) than for warmth in polar climates. This cape is a bit fussy to wear, but worth it for the drama, perhaps...

[Let's pause one moment for a quick trip down memory lane: When I was a teenager in the mid 70s, my next door neighbor had an older daughter who was engaged. I will never forget her gown. For her December wedding, she designed something special: a full length white velvet cape with a dramatic hood, lined in red and trimmed in white fur. It was cut longer in back, forming a train. I don't recollect that she wore anything underneath, as it did close, but there must have been some short of sheath, as shown in the following YSL ensemble. My teenaged heart went pitter patter for this gown and the idea of a December wedding, which I had never heard of before.]

Examples of this style of cape include:

Yves Saint Laurent

These patterns often feature a ruana view, which is worn more like a stole

The Poncho

In the poncho style, the arms emerge from under the hem. For this to work, the cape is generally shorter on the sides, or all around.

Another trip down memory lane: My mother, an accomplished seamstress, made a short cape from white faux fur back in the 70s. The cape buttoned and I wore it to several events (which I can no longer precisely remember).

Examples of this style include:

Fabulous neckline!

The Red Riding Hood

In the first two styles, there is no modification to the pattern for arms and hands. In this style, some form of slit allows the wearer's hands to emerge, while keeping the cape closed, if desired. The slit may land in a seam, or it might be a free-standing welt.

Depending on the location of the slit, this can be the hardest style to wear, as it can greatly limit mobility. At least that's what I remember from back in the 70s...

Designers seem to love this style. Examples include:



DKNY (current pattern)

I love how the hand emerges from the welt and then slides into a patch pocket.
A clever detail.

Style Arc design (current pattern)

Interesting Variations

I saw a couple interesting cape variations that deserve special mention.

This cape has cuffs, forming a batwing silhouette.

This pattern claims that you can wear it as a cape OR a skirt!
I wonder how feasible that is in real life...

What to Choose?

Have I chosen what kind of cape to make?

Why, yes I have. :) I hope to have something to show soon, but I will say that mine fits into the "poncho style" category.

What about you? Is a cape in your future? Or maybe you acquired one in the last year or two? Or maybe you were "caped out" in the 70s and can't go there again?