When Cate Blanchett wore a custom-made Balenciaga Edition blush-pink silk cape over an embroidered, floral appliqué dress for the premiere of her new film Blue Jasmine, she hit the best-dressed lists of W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and more.
Little wonder: capes are becoming the style crusader’s garment of choice, thanks to the diverse influences of Game of Thrones’ warrior woman Daenerys Targaryen and her flowing medieval robes, and of Downton Abbey’s Cora, Countess of Grantham, with her more sedate fur pieces.
“The cape embodies the new way of luxury dressing,” says Silvano Vangi, head womenswear buyer at online luxury retailer Luisa Via Roma. “Women want to be comfortable and less constricted because the mood now is to be cool, but in a casual way.”
Derek Lam, whose pared-back autumn/winter capes include a black lace cape dress for $3,390, says: “Everything today is about streamlining and usability, like technology and architecture. The cape’s simple silhouette strips the line down to its most practical form, which doesn’t always apply in fashion.”
At Nina Ricci, one of its capes comes in a delicate, fluttering chiffon (£770). Peter Copping, the brand’s artistic director, believes that versatility is at the heart of the resurgence. “A cape can be military-inspired for day or embroidered for evening,” he says. “It works well as a blank canvas or with decoration and can be worn in different materials and in a multitude of ways.”
Indeed, this season there is a cape for every taste and every occasion. Take the luxe green cashmere throwover by Hermès (£4,930); Pucci’s eye-popping studded and beaded embroidered knit (£3,444); Marios Schwab’s modern medieval take (£1,566); or Stella McCartney’s sculpted embroidered piece (£2,226). Then there is Giambattista Valli’s experimental velvet-and-silk jersey dress with a cape that transforms into a train (£3,074); JW Anderson’s edgy asymmetrical wool-caped sweater (£1,077); and Antonio Berardi’s typically glam silky-soft black jumpsuit with its floor-skimming cape back (£3,970).
“The cape effect adds drama and dimension to the whole look without being tricky,” says designer Esteban Cortázar, formerly creative director at Emanuel Ungaro. Cortázar’s long black stretch-satin cape top (£535) sold out on Net-a-porter.com in the US within two weeks. Beatrice Behlen, a senior curator at the Museum of London – which is to hold an exhibition of that legendary cape wearer Sherlock Holmes next autumn – is another fan. “They are more fun than other garments and remind me of my childhood,” she says. “I instantly want to twirl to make a cape fly out even more, which makes me happy in these difficult times.”
According to former City lawyer turned fashion designer Mandeep Kaur Chohan, of new label Nom de Mode – which focused its entire season’s collection on handmade silk brocade and wool crêpe capes (from £450) – “Capes are becoming more popular among City women as they make a statement about their personality. They show originality and flair.”
Gallerist Clemency Cooke, who wears vintage Victorian capes as well as more modern Saint Laurent pieces with riding boots and high-waisted trousers for work, or with a strapless ball gown for the opera, says: “There is something mysterious about a cape because what you’re wearing underneath is hidden, so it’s like a big reveal. Wearing a cape makes me feel glamorous and makes me stand out.”
Besides, as she points out, “Everyone has an LBD [little black dress] but not everyone has a cape.” Perhaps that is about to change.