CAPE CRU­SADE

The sleeve­less cloak is mag­i­cal in its abil­ity to be­stow power and con­fi­dence on any wearer.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Market Contents - By Lau­ren Mech­ling

Not all hero­ines wear capes, but there’s a rea­son so many of them do. We in­ves­ti­gate the near-mag­i­cal power of the sleeve­less sta­ple.

Back when I was a cub news­pa­per re­porter, my edi­tor in­formed me that my next as­sign­ment was to in­ter­view the group Destiny’s Child. Un­aware that one mem­ber of the trio would go on to be­come the great­est liv­ing icon, I fret­ted about how lit­tle time I was go­ing to be al­lot­ted with my sub­jects and how I could pos­si­bly spin 11 min­utes of chit-chat into a full-length col­umn. My so­lu­tion was to sport a tweed cape that I’d re­cently pur­chased at a vin­tage store in Toronto’s Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket. The think­ing went that I’d in­stantly es­tab­lish my­self as not your typ­i­cal news­pa­per re­porter and the mu­si­cians would be in­spired to ditch the press-tour sound bites and re­ally con­nect. The mo­ment I en­tered the Toronto ho­tel room, a teenaged Bey­oncé Knowles (she had yet to drop the sur­name) looked up with a kit­ten­ish smile and com­pli­mented my un­ortho­dox at­tire. We all spent a good four min­utes dis­cussing the city’s vin­tage scene, a con­ver­sa­tion that would buy me the first few para­graphs of my ar­ti­cle. »

Though capes might just be sim­ple sleeve­less cloaks, they pos­sess the near-mag­i­cal power to po­si­tion any­one dar­ing enough to wear one as a dash­ing and dra­matic soul. It’s im­pos­si­ble to put one on and not feel like a badass. Nine­teenth-cen­tury Os­car Wilde was a no­to­ri­ous cape afi­cionado, as was the flam­boy­ant en­ter­tainer Lib­er­ace, who in 1984 made a Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall ap­pear­ance in a $380,000 Nor­we­gian blue fox cape. More re­cently, for­mer king of Vogue An­dré Leon Tal­ley learned to play up his im­pe­rial stature by mak­ing it his thing to en­robe him­self in lux­u­ri­ous sheets of gold and royal blue.

Capes are mak­ing a come­back, as was seen on the Fall 2018 run­ways, where mod­els sport­ing one it­er­a­tion af­ter the next stepped up like so many su­per­heroes ar­riv­ing in the nick of time. Jac­que­mus fea­tured a di­aphanous wool cape coat in olive green, while Al­berta Fer­retti show­cased a cloak in nearly vil­lain­ous heavy-duty black leather. A but­ton-down cape in sump­tu­ous shear­ling at Chris­tian Dior was worn open over a barely-there mini-dress, re­mind­ing us that capes can flat­ter as well as pro­tect. At our present mo­ment, when so many of us feel un­der threat by the lousy pol­i­tics play­ing out across the globe and in need of a su­per­hero to save us, could there be a more per­fect gar­ment?

The cape’s dev­il­ish charms are bound to the name it­self—the word “cape” de­rives from ex cappa, Latin for “to es­cape.” In­deed, the cape wearer is not to be messed with. In an­cient times, capes were part of the Ro­man mil­i­tary uni­form. Later on, they be­came stan­dard-is­sue at­tire for fencers as well as su­per­heroes in the modern canon. Nancy Deihl, di­rec­tor of the cos­tume stud­ies MA pro­gram at New York Uni­ver­sity, points out that capes are not ex­clu­sive to men; in cen­turies past, Celtic women wore them to keep warm and free-armed, while the ma­tri­archs of Euro­pean royal fam­i­lies donned heavy be­jew­elled ver­sions at pub­lic cer­e­monies to tele­graph their power and pres­tige. “A large part of the drama has to do with how the cape moves in­de­pen­dently of the body,” says Deihl. “It con­fers power on the wearer but also a mys­ti­cal qual­ity.”

When Ri­hanna wanted to make a state­ment at the 2015 Met Gala, she turned up in an un­for­get­table turmeric-coloured Guo Pei (see “Ad­dress­ing the West,” page 74) fur-trimmed cape that trailed down the red car­pet and launched a thou­sand memes. And ear­lier this year, when ru­mours swirled about the state of Bey­oncé and Jay Z’s mar­riage, the icon took to the stage at Coachella in a stun­ning Queen Ne­fer­titi-in­spired head­dress and, yes, match­ing cape. She looked ev­ery inch the ma­jes­tic and in­vin­ci­ble su­per­star. Maybe I re­ally did make an im­pres­sion.

RI­HANNA IN GUO PEI’S FUR­TRIMMED CAPE AT THE 2015 MET GALA; LIB­ER­ACE WAS AS FA­MOUS FOR HIS CAPES AS FOR HIS PI­ANO PLAY­ING.

FOR REST­LESS SLEEP­ERS AT MATCHES FASH­ION.COM $2,000

COACH $1,500

IS­ABEL MARANT AT NET-APORTER $1,395

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