The Princess Of Wales Has Made The Cape Her Occasionwear Superpower

The Princess Of Wales Has Made The Cape Her Occasionwear Superpower

Elizabeth Taylor cape-fluencing in Cleopatra. Photo: Getty
Anyone hoping to make an entrance at a big event this party season should revisit Elizabeth Taylor arriving in Ancient Rome in Cleopatra. In a famous (and famously expensive) scene in Joseph L Mankiewicz’s 1963 epic, the Egyptian queen leaves the crowds awestruck as she sweeps into the city on an enormous marble sphinx. In reality, litters are difficult to come by (though Billy Porter managed it for the 2019 Met Gala), but it wasn’t only the props that made her arrival so memorable. There was also the not insignificant matter of that gold dress – complete with a cape crafted to resemble the wings of a phoenix.
It’s just one of many fabulous capes in cinematic history (another classic: Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy in Funny Face), and thanks to designers’ enduring fascination with its ability to lend drama to a dress – Cristóbal Balenciaga’s obsession with austere, ecclesiastical clothing saw him add capes to his couture in the ’50s and ’60s, and more than half a century on they were a theme of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s most recent Valentino collection – the silhouette has been central to some indelible red-carpet looks, too.
Lupita Nyong’o wearing Ralph Lauren at the Golden Globes in 2014, the year she was nominated for 12 Years a Slave. Photo: Getty
In the last decade alone, we’ve had Gwyneth Paltrow in Tom Ford at the Oscars in 2012, Lupita Nyong’o in scarlet Ralph Lauren at the 2014 Golden Globes, and Lady Gaga’s silver Givenchy Haute Couture for the premiere of A Star is Born in 2018. Capes were all over the red carpet at the 2020 Academy Awards, on Brie Larson (Celine), Maya Rudolph (Valentino), Olivia Colman (Stella McCartney), Natalie Portman (Dior) and Tracee Ellis Ross, whose showstopping gold Zuhair Murad gown for the Vanity Fair party was not unlike Taylor’s Cleopatra number. At this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards, Best Actress nominee Selena Gomez was ravishing in a custom red cape dress by Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton.
Just this week, the Princess of Wales attended a state dinner at Buckingham Palace wearing a white gown by Jenny Packham, its built-in cape flowing from crystal-encrusted statement shoulders. It’s not the first time the Princess has worn a cape dress, but the timing feels significant. It was Kate’s first state banquet since she assumed her new, more senior role within the royal family following the death of Her Majesty the Queen on 8 September. Her husband Prince William is now first in line to the throne, and the couple are key figureheads for the British monarchy on the world stage. The white-tie banquet, held in honour of South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, was the first hosted by King Charles III, making it a hugely significant occasion for the new-look royal family. The Princess dressed accordingly – adding Princess Diana’s favourite Lover’s Knot tiara to her Jenny Packham cape dress, which looked sleek, elegant and undeniably regal.
The Princess of Wales in her cape dress at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace this week. Photo: Getty
It followed another memorable cape moment from Kate in September last year, when she walked the red carpet at the world premiere of the wildly anticipated James Bond film No Time to Die. The Princess – a careful dresser who rarely takes risks when it comes to fashion – ramped up the glamour quotient in a gold sequined gown with a shimmering cape, again by Jenny Packham. It was a big moment for the British film industry – and for parties – as the postponed premiere finally went ahead following pandemic setbacks, and Kate’s golden goddess cape ensured it was all over the front pages the next day.
In 2018, Kate was tasked with a royal tour of Sweden and Norway while heavily pregnant with her third child, Prince Louis. That time, it was a blush pink cape dress by Alexander McQueen that came to the rescue for dinner at the Norwegian royal palace, where the then Duchess swept into the banquet on the arm of King Harald V, the delicate layer of tulle that fell from her shoulders swishing in her wake. Another occasion when the eyes of the world were upon her, deftly executed with the help of a little extra drama.
Don’t be surprised if a cape silhouette makes its way into the Princess’s case for the Wales’s forthcoming visit to Boston, their first joint trip to the US since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s move to Montecito precipitated a cooling of relations between the two royal couples. The trip, which takes place shortly before Harry and Meghan are expected to accept an award at the 2022 Ripple of Hope Gala in New York, will inevitably make headlines on both sides of the pond, suggesting Kate’s wardrobe will be curated with even more careful attention to detail than usual.
Kate on the red carpet in shimmering Jenny Packham sequins at the Royal Albert Hall. Photo: Getty
In social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s famous 2012 Ted Talk, she claimed spending two minutes in a “Wonder Woman pose” – legs shoulder-width apart, chest proud, hands on hips – can boost confidence ahead of a nerve-wracking meeting or important presentation. (Adopting this “non-verbal expression of dominance and power”, she argued, can increase levels of testosterone and lower cortisol, leaving you better equipped to handle whatever the day throws at you.) If borrowing her body language is this effective (66 million views suggest Cuddy was onto something), perhaps it makes sense that high-profile women like the Princess should reach for the superhero’s style signature for important moments. Who wouldn’t walk a little taller while channelling Wonder Woman?
Originally published in

Why Capes Are The New Wardrobe Addition You Didn’t Know You Need

Why Capes Are The New Wardrobe Addition You Didn’t Know You Need

Since ancient times, the cape has served as cover-up. Now, fashion designers are stating the obvious – you need a cape for FW20.
Cindy Bruna. Photographed by Jason Kim

As mesmerizing yet fictitious as the image of the hero donning a flowing cape might be, there’s a kernel of truth in the meaning behind why many have worn capes throughout history. The protective piece of fabric, sometimes accompanied by a hood, most commonly associated with kings, queens, magicians, wizards, and even She-Ra, offers a layer of protection to the body and the visage. Apart from serving as a fashion or even a religious statement, capes protected against harsh weather and also maintained one’s privacy when needed.
Queen Elizabeth II after her Coronation, 1953. Getty

In Roman times, one often finds a cloak or cape in the statues of military commanders, fastened at one shoulder. Capes were commonly worn in medieval Europe by the rich and poor alike, attached with a hood. Then in the 19th century, during the Victorian period, a combination of capes with a chaperon or hood became vogue in Europe. The cape also carries religious significance. Centuries ago, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, particularly in Arabia and in the Levant region, wore a cloak similar to what is referred to as the abaya today. While the history of the abaya, like the cloak, remains vague, historical evidence demonstrates how the robe-like garment was also worn in ancient Mesopotamia.
Rick Owens

The cape has made a comeback at different intervals throughout history and today, it is once again having a moment of glory. If there was one obvious trend on the FW20 runways, particularly in New York and Paris, the cape was it. Indeed, this season we’ll spend a lot of time taking advantage of the spacious forms that the cape element brings to fashion. Designers such as Rick Owens, who offered a long statement puffer cape in baby blue, and Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller, whose seductive red pagoda shoulder cape slim-fit dresses drew inspiration from the stars of French cinema, played with capes, transforming them into everyday and evening attire in new ways. In Dior’s FW20 collection, a sculptural black ruffled cape signified once again that the cape trend was very much the zeitgeist.

Some of the Middle East’s biggest design names, particularly from Lebanon, are similarly maintaining the age-old fashion element with new additions. “A cape is an envelope that protects the body; a surprising element that can hide everything and reveal many things,” says Rabih Kayrouz.
Maison Rabih Kayrouz

For his Spring Couture collection, the designer offered a transparent mesh-like black robe. In previous collections, Kayrouz has often included long capes in a multitude of colors and cuts. “In the world of couture, the cape element will never be outdated or out of style,” states Lebanese couturier Rami Kadi. “What I love about capes is that they always add a touch of royalty, flawlessness, and elegance to the designs.” Kadi, who is known for his vibrant use of distinctive and psychedelic colors and unconventional cuts, often incorporates light capes into his collections. “We always use the cape to enhance some of our pieces, especially wedding gowns,” he adds. “While the origin of the cape is traditional, we love to modernize it in our collections and give it new life. Sometimes we make it long or short and plain, and other times we embroider it with delicate designs.”
Zuhair Murad

From ready-to- wear to haute couture, capes have also appeared in many of Georges Hobeika’s collections. “In our last couture collection, we presented caped skirt suits and printed capes, endowing them with a more modern and casual feel,” he states of his sartorial cape approach. Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s showstopping gowns, suits, and skirts have long been known for their showy, sequin-laden, and dazzling appeal. They are the epitome of contemporary majesty. To that end, the designer often incorporates capes. Some are merely fastened to a slim-fit outfit while others are attached to a flowy robe-like dress with long sleeves with a cut just above the hand so that you can ever so slightly see the fingers. An intimate elegance can be found here as well as remnants of the cape’s ancient and protective uses. “The purpose of inserting capes to a collection is to add a majestic allure,” says Murad. “A cape emphasizes the glamour of the piece.” Perhaps it is this princess-cum-hero quality of the cape that makes this fashion element timeless and especially attractive this season. She who dons the cape, can well and truly save herself.
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Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia 

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