Probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear types of capes are fictional characters or superheroes. Those who have been fashion enthusiasts for a long time, though, know that capes and cloaks are articles of clothing that you can also wear on several occasions, even as a bride. No matter how you want and when you decide to wear one, it’s essential to be familiar with some of the most common cape types you’ll find today.
Different Types of Capes Tutorial
What is a Cape?
Like coats and jackets, capes are a type of garment that can help keep you warm during the cold season or make you look more fashionable. In comparison, though, they’re less restrictive, so they offer more functionality because of their design or style. Before discussing the types of capes available, let’s understand what capes are by looking into their history and differentiating them from cloaks.
History of Capes
The cape has been around for a long time, but like straw hats and leggings, no one can tell its exact place and time of origin. People belonging to the rich and powerful societies were the only ones who wore capes to signify their status or rank until they became a fashion staple.
That said, historians found an illustration of a shepherd or soldier wearing a cape on his shoulder, probably dating back to 1066. For women wearing capes, they’ve found a portrait of a woman who has a round-shaped cape attached to her dress, dating back to the 1300s.
Capes then evolved into pieces with more intricate stitching and required more complicated and detailed tailoring techniques. Tailors eventually designed different types of capes, each one symbolizing an occupation or rank. Some have added elements, such as a hood for the monks and fur for the royalties.
They made capes using different fabrics, where velvet, satin, and silk were meant for royalties only. There were also differences in lengths.
During the Victorian era, more women than men wore capes, making them a fashionable item not just for selected individuals. They now use the capes’ colors to symbolize their status in society, wherein socialites wore bright palettes. In Europe, those in the military wore certain types of capes as rainwear during the 1900s.
In 1920, cape shapes changed and became a staple for evening wear, especially for women. Then, in the 1950s, designers made specific changes and used several fabrics, making these capes more fashionable than functional. The cape trend started to diminish, but people started noticing it again in the 1970s, leading to the development of many types of capes that you can see now.
Capes vs. Cloaks
With the evolution of capes, it became a little challenging to differentiate capes and many types of cloaks. In the past, cloaks were meant for protection, while capes are mainly for fashion.
Also, no types of capes with hoods existed in the past; only cloaks had hoods. Capes generally had collars.
Hence, let’s look at the distinguishing features of cloaks and capes.
- Length: Cloaks exceed the ankles, while the longest capes only reach the ankles or calf.
- Sleeves: Both pieces of clothing don’t have sleeves per se, but cloaks have slits meant for the arms, acting as sleeves.
- Fastener: Cloaks and some types of capes have fasteners on the neck to keep them in place. That said, some capes also come with mid-section fasteners. Modern capes may have velcro or buttons to close. Older capes had a clasp, cords, fabric neck ties, or broach to close them.
Today the terms cloak and cape are used interchangeably.
Common Types of Capes
We’ve touched a little on the different cape types in the history section, but we haven’t talked about them in detail. Here we’ve categorized them based on differences in style and length, and neckline style.
Types of Capes by Style and Length
The differences in cape style usually depend on an added element, symmetry, or how they drape. Of course, in terms of length, this depends on where they end. Each of the types of capes in this category can be a combination of the mentioned differences.
1. Classic or Traditional
The traditional or classic cape is a one-piece cloth with a symmetrical or wavy hem and fastener around the neck area. It provides sufficient mobility and is perfect for almost all body sizes and shapes. These types of capes can reach the hips, thighs, knees, or ankles.
2. Capelet or Cropped
Aptly named, this cape has a shorter length than the classic one, usually ending at the elbow area. It’s usually worn over the head, but you’ll find open-design ones, either with or without a fastener such as a button, clip, or rope.
3. Cape Shawl
These types of capes are like shawls with a bit of difference, as they come together in front as soon as you wear them. Some have an asymmetrical design, allowing you to wrap the cape around your body for more warmth. You’ll also find that cape shawls drape better because of their wider necklines.
4. Hooded Types of Capes
Capes with hoods are perfect for those who want to protect their heads from the winter cold. Those made of waterproof or water-resistant material and designed specifically for snow and rain are called rainwear capes.
From the name itself, these types of capes have hoods attached to the neck area. The length of hooded cloaks or capes can vary, tapering from the hips to the ankles.
5. Poncho Cape
A cape and a poncho are two different garments, even if they look similar and have the same length. The difference lies in how you wear them.
You drape the poncho cape over your shoulders, so the front is open, though you can wrap it around your body. On the contrary, you wear the poncho over your head, so it doesn’t have a front opening but has a head hole. That said, to stay true to the poncho label, this cape type comes with a fastener, usually buttons or zippers, so you can close it fully in front.
6. Blanket Cape
Often confused with a blanket poncho, a blanket tapers up to the knees or just above the ankles. Unlike the classic blanket poncho, you would wear the blanket cape over your shoulders, not over your head. Like the capelet, these types of capes can come with or without a fastener.
Blanket capes are usually knitted or made of thick materials such as wool fabric to keep you warm. They’re perfect for lounging in the house during the cold season.
7. Embellished Cape
You’ll also find capes with embellishments such as sequins and Swarovski crystals. They’re the perfect type of cape that you wear on special occasions. Some brides are also beginning to include a cape in their wedding attire.
Types of Capes According to Neckline
Compared to the first category of cape types, this is a bit easier because you can identify the cape quickly. Keep in mind that when we say neckline shape or design, we’re usually referring to how it looks once you fasten the cape or how it looks once the cape drapes in front of your body.
You must also remember that you wear capes over the shoulder, so they don’t have the standard types of necklines that clothes have.
8. Circle Cape Types
We can further divide the circular neckline into several types, including:
- Full Circle Cloak: This is common for the types of capes that fasten on top, covering your entire shoulder and some parts of your chest.
- Half Circles: This circular neckline is very versatile. You’ll find that the top portion of your cape will slide slightly to your back, revealing your clavicles while still covering your shoulders.
- Half, Fitted: A modification of the neckline discussed above, these types of capes have necklines containing three pieces of fabric. They cover your shoulders and front area but only slightly cover your back.
- Quarter: A quarter of a circle neckline has a design that will stay and flare on your back. It has mid-size, so you stay comfortable.
9. Rectangle Cape Types
This is the type of cape that has the widest neckline. It covers your shoulders and some of your chest.
Tips for Wearing Types of Capes With Style
As with any other piece of garment, capes can make or break your outfit, especially since capes get associated with superheroes, cosplays, Dracula, and costumes. The fashion tips below will ensure you slay any types of capes you wear.
Choose the Right Bottoms
It’s always best to wear bottoms that fit well, such as skinny jeans, cropped leather pants, straight-cut pants, and leggings. Remember that capes have a loose fit, so wearing loose bottoms can make you look a little bigger than your usual body size. Nonetheless, you can also wear skirts and dresses, as long as not the bulky ones.
Be Careful With Your Color Choices
Neutral colors are the way to go if it’s your first time wearing a cape or layering your outfits. Apparently, they can easily match any color, so you’re assured you won’t overdo it.
Colorful capes, on the other hand, can help add style and color to a monochrome outfit. Likewise, light-colored capes are perfect for an all-black outfit.
Add Some Shape
Most capes with a length exceeding the waist don’t come with fasteners in the midsection. Thus, women who want to add some shape when they wear these types of capes, especially those made of thick materials, can add a belt or ribbon.
Types of Capes FAQs
What is a half cloak called?
A half cloak is often called a cape or mantle. A cape typically covers the back and drapes over the shoulders, with a length from the upper back to the ankles. They can be short, mid-length, or long.
What do you call a cape with sleeves?
A cape with sleeves is often called a cloak. Cloaks are outer garments that are similar to capes but can have sleeves or arm slits, allowing for more movement and warmth. Cloaks can be fastened at the throat or over the shoulder and may come in a variety of lengths, from short to full-length.
What were the types of capes worn in Medieval times?
During medieval times, various styles of cloaks were integral to everyday attire. They not only provided warmth but also stood as symbols of status or were tailored for specific purposes. Let's delve into some of these styles:
- Mantle: The mantle was essentially a fabric draped across the shoulders and secured in front or to the side.
- Chaperon: This began as a functional hood with a short cape attached. Over time, its design morphed with the hood transforming into headwear, and the cape part, known as liripipe, extending in length.
- Houppelande: Although not a cloak in the strictest sense, the houppelande was a robe-like garment that was full-length and often showcased wide sleeves. Both genders wore it, and some designs even sported a collar.
- Cappa: Often seen on monks, the cappa was a long, hooded cloak.
- Surcoat: Originating as a protective layer worn over armor, the surcoat transformed into various styles across the ages, with some versions leaning towards a cloak, especially for females.
- Tippet-adorned Cloak: In the 1300s, cloaks occasionally featured tippets, which were elongated strips of cloth hanging from the sleeves or the garment's rear.
- Pilgrim's Cloak: Symbolizing a sacred journey, this cloak had a shell or cross design sewn onto it, representing the pilgrimage.
- Livery Cloak: Denoting service or allegiance to a noble, this cloak carried specific colors or the coat of arms of the affiliated lord.
Keep in mind the medieval era extended over several centuries, and fashion naturally evolved during this period. Hence, the cloaks mentioned above represent just a fraction of the styles that existed in different regions and times.
Type of Capes - In Conclusion
Outerwear like capes is essential because it’s both functional and fashionable. When shopping for a cape, the critical feature you need to look at to ensure you don’t get a cloak is its length.
Just make sure you also don’t get a poncho and scarf. That’s why it’s best to familiarize yourself with the types of capes. Learning how to wear them with style will also ensure you make the best of your investment.