The Rich and Intriguing History of the Cape

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe humble cape has a rich and intriguing history. The name originally comes from the Latin word ‘escape’. The garments’ Latin origins unsurprisingly meant the ancient Romans were rather fond of wearing capes. Commanders in the army wore a version called a paludamentum. A dramatic style choice finished off by fastening at the shoulder. Roman Centurions would be permitted to wear a smaller version called a sagum.

For one of the greatest armies the world has ever seen it is likely this outfit choice was rather terrifying to the opposing armies. 

The cape became more flamboyant in later years. It was often used dramatically, being swept aside to reveal a weapon or tossed around in a grandiose display. Think fencing or duelling with pistols. They were almost an obligatory fashion choice for long periods in history and went through many style incarnations. Of course they were nearly always worn by the upper classes.

Fast forward many years and you will find superheroes claiming capes for their own. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all had swishy capes to help in their crime fighting. Capes also seemed to be favoured by villains in popular culture, from Darth Vader to the glorious Maleficent. It is a garment designed to make an entrance and a big first impression.

Of course the cape has come a long way since its origins and remains an incredibly stylish piece of outerwear. Who can forget Angelina Jolie, Catherine Deneuve or Gillian Anderson in their stunning fashion choices. They show that capes are not only for theatrics and superheroes, but are suited for every day life.

The best thing about modern woollen capes is their versatility. They are excellent for layering in warm and cool months. They always look wonderfully draped as wool is incredibly crease resistant. This makes them an ideal choice to pack in a weekend bag. Although they can be worn under coats in the winter, they also make a marvellous outer layer to protect the wearer from the elements.

Capes can be worn as an understated casual look over jeans or dressed up with a broach and worn over evening wear. They are much less restrictive and infinitely more elegant than a coat. They can be worn even over bulky clothing. There is still something special that invokes a sense of Royalty and old Hollywood glamour when wearing a cape. Even if you just keep one on the sofa to cosy up with in the winter!

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