As the cape is set to be­come one of this year’s big­gest trends, Jes­sica-Belle Greer looks back at its colour­ful history.

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The cape is a big trend for 2018; we take a look at its history

Pre­his­tory – A rel­a­tively sim­ple gar­ment, thrown over the shoul­ders to pro­vide pro­tec­tion with­out the tech­ni­cal­ity of sleeves, the cape has been around longer than there have been means to doc­u­ment it.

C 1500s – Some of the first capes in the early Re­nais­sance pe­riod were at­tached to women’s col­lars, but over time they be­came a dig­ni­fied gar­ment. El­iz­a­beth I, for ex­am­ple, was known to wear long, elab­o­rate capes to pro­tect her feet from get­ting wet.

1910s – The cape be­came a fash­ion state­ment with the help of var­i­ous tai­lors, in­clud­ing French fash­ion de­signer Paul Poiret, who trans­formed it with vi­brant pat­terns largely in­spired by eth­nic de­signs. Po­lice units and mil­i­taries across the world de­signed capes for both men and women, in­clud­ing the Red Cross’ and Anzac nurses’ short red capes.

1920s – The cape was given a cre­ative flour­ish. Orig­i­nat­ing in France and Spain, the pop­u­lar­ity of ‘cloak and dag­ger’ sto­ries, where the pro­tag­o­nists con­cealed their weapons un­der their capes, be­came in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar. Zorro was one of the first su­per­heroes to be kit­ted out in a swish cape, in keep­ing with his Span­ish her­itage.

C 1700s – In the Vic­to­rian era, capes be­came more fash­ion­able for women than men. Of­ten in scar­let red, the hooded car­di­nal cape was worn by all re­spectable women. They were so wide­spread they be­came in­cluded in wed­ding out­fits and were an in­te­gral part of the pop­u­lar moral­ity tale Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood.

1930s – The cape was still a sta­ple of mod­ern dress for women, es­pe­cially fur num­bers slung over shoul­ders to get to the club or the­atre. Dress­ing as a gentleman Drac­ula in a film of the same name, Bela Lu­gosi made the long black cape his call­ing card, wear­ing it in other films in­clud­ing White Zom­bie, fur­ther­ing the cape’s ties to thrilling sto­ries.

1950s – In the early post-war era, the cou­ture houses of Paris in­flu­enced the rest of the world. Capes, like match­ing hats and gloves, com­pleted a put-together look. It could be both a posh way to pro­tect your evening dress when head­ing out for the night or on­trend out­er­wear to en­velop a tidy pen­cil skirt suit.

1960s – In this ex­per­i­men­tal decade, capes were a fun fash­ion choice. Mod de­signs with space-age aes­thet­ics cap­tured both men and women’s attention, es­pe­cially af­ter

Jane Fonda’s Bar­barella gave it some fu­tur­is­tic mileage.

1970s – Capes came into their own again thanks to the free-flow­ing out­er­wear of folk­lore-in­spired fash­ions in the first half of the decade. A cape was also great fun to dance and twirl in, as ex­em­pli­fied by the­atri­cal per­form­ers ABBA, Elvis and Grace Jones. The orig­i­nal Won­der Woman TV se­ries that aired in 1975 gave the trend some ex­tra wind into the early 80s.

1990s – The cape was seen as a friv­o­lous fash­ion item. No­tably, Vik­tor & Rolf stole the show at Paris Haute Cou­ture fash­ion week in 1999 with their fi­nal look – a vo­lu­mi­nous, over­sized coat coming up over the model’s head. Deca­dent, elab­o­rate and hu­mor­ous.

To­day – Ec­cen­tric in sil­hou­ette but re­fined in de­tail, the cape is a ma­jor trend again, seen on run­ways from Givenchy to Jac­que­mus. In all its guises, one thing re­mains the same – so long as you wear it with flair, you can wear the cape any­where.

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