While growing up, and even now, we have seen superheroes wearing capes. Superheroes may be fictitious but there is a reason why we see most superheroes wearing capes. They are just meant to offer protection to the wearer. But just like many other things that we still use today, we are unsure from where or when exactly did the cape originate, though it is a popular belief that the French word cloke, originated from cloca (Latin), which translates to the modern-day gothic cape.
The earliest mention of a cape
Probably, the earliest mention of a cape dates back to the illustration of 1066, of a shepherd or soldier who had a cape across his shoulder. Much later in the 1300s, an illustration was found of a woman who had a cape attached to the collar of her dress, which is something sort of a mentel (as capes were known as) of the medieval times.
Capes happened to be simple, round cloth pieces that were attached to the collar, but over time, capes evolved into more complex designs that needed to be tailored and required intricate stitches. Later, different styles of capes were used to denote occupation or rank.
For example, while kings/queens wore double-stitched, fur-rimmed capes of satin, silk, or velvet that reached till their feet, monks wore waist-length, hooded capes.
Capes in the Victorian Era
Now, women were seen in capes more than men, but it was not until the Victorian Era that capes earned a stable position in the clothing/fashion industry. The bright red-coloured capes were accepted as a powerful colour that denoted a person from the high class or a good pedigree.
The European army wore capes to save themselves from rains, and they were also worn during the wars before and throughout the 1900s. The US army officers still wear capes as an alternative to trench coats.
But as capes entwined more into fashion their original designs started transforming. In the 1920s, they were designed as cocoons and were worn as evening outfits. By the next decade, a more tailored silhouette, something between the coats and capes were born that had a collar and buttons, arm slits (like that in capes), and irregular hems.
Some decades later, in the 1950s, the designers redesigned the cape and removed the functionality part, making it an out-an-out fashion statement. They emphasised the fabric, shape, and flawless seams and lines.
The capes went off fashion for a short span and returned in the 1970s as the poncho cape. The crochet versions of this became popular immediately among the non-nonsense crowd and the followers of Goth. Fashionable net capes also became popular.
How gothic capes grew popular?
Gothic fashion is incomplete without capes when paired with women’s gothic dresses or gothic skirts. They are comfortable, yet stylish, creating a statement of their own.
A 1966 cult Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows saw the vampire Barnabas Collins wearing the cape, an Inverness cape. This cape made a reappearance in the 2012 remake of Dark Shadows film.
Gothic fashion of the 1980s, 1990s, and later years focuses on black and dark clothing that included heavy eye makeup, pale skin, dark hair (crimpled or spiky), Victorian accessories, fishnet stockings, corsets, lacy gloves, gothic trousers and shirts, gothic skirts, velvet cloaks, net Gothic capes, and leather coats or jackets.
Throughout the 20th Century, capes have been a popular accessory for comic superheroes like Batman, Robin and Superman, Thor, Cloak, Spectre, and so on. Thanks to Marvel Cinematic Universe, we see a good number of Superheroes (and villains) wearing capes.