A Potted History Of The Fashion Cape – British Vogue

The cape is a timeless fashion staple. (Case in point: on Vogue Italia’s December 2021 cover, Lady Gaga wears a bouclé version from Valentino’s exquisite couture line, Des Ateliers, that’s almost as remarkable as the star herself.)  While capes have been around since at least the 11th century, the garment was reimagined over the course of the 1900s by some of the greatest designers in fashion history.

Vivien Leigh in Waterloo Bridge.


The house of Lanvin produced lavishly embellished capes from the ’20s onwards, while Elsa Schiaparelli captured the public’s imagination with the shocking-pink Phoebus cape from her Astrologie collection in 1938. By the 1940s and ’50s, Balenciaga and Dior had cornered the market – with the former attaching mini-capes to extravagant gowns, and the latter proposing cocoon-style iterations to be worn over tailored suits.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, Hollywood did its part to establish the cape’s wildly fashionable reputation. Take Vivien Leigh’s red velvet style in 1940’s Waterloo Bridge, Anita Ekberg’s stunning fur-trimmed creation in La Dolce Vita (1960), and Marilyn Monroe’s 1953 turn in an animal-print cape for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. As for Audrey Hepburn? She relied on Hubert de Givenchy to design the fairytale-like taffeta cape she wore in Funny Face (1957).

Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.


At the start of the Cold War, America’s numerous space missions inspired Pierre Cardin to put a Space Age-twist on the medieval garment, while Diana, Princess of Wales ensured capes’ continued popularity by wearing them frequently throughout the ’80s. And in the new millenium? The cape has been a favourite of A-listers on the red carpet, from Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2012 Oscars to the Duchess of Cambridge at the No Time To Die premiere

With capes dominating the runways once again, look back at some of the most famous styles in history, below.

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