Tag Archives: capes

Diversionary Tactics

While bogged down in the fitting of these wool slacks, my mind has been thinking about capes instead. 

Almost ready for the waistband!
But first – finish inserting the lapped zipper and the silk lining.

I know myself well enough to recognize it is always prudent to work on the least favorable item first and save the ”goodies” for later, and that is what I have done with this cape and slacks ensemble introduced in my last post.  There is a reason I have made few pairs of slacks in my years of sewing:  I find fitting them tedious.  So, while I think I am just about satisfied with how they are coming along, the thing which has kept me sane is the prospect of making that beautiful cape. 

All of this has led me to do a little research into capes.  I started with Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, as I often do when investigating a sewing/fashion topic.  Well, oh my!   There happen to be no fewer than 8 pages of entries for capes, cloaks, and shawls!  It turns out a cape is not just a cape, and the history of capes is long indeed.  For my purposes here, the simple definition of a cape is sufficient:  “Sleeveless outerwear of various lengths usually opening in center front; cut in a full circle, in a segment of  a circle, or on the straight – usually with slits for arms.  A classic type of outerwear worn in one form or another throughout history….”  (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, c2003)

Interestingly, Christian Dior has no entry for capes in his Little Dictionary of Fashion, another one of my go-to reference books.  But as luck would have it, the newest J. Peterman Company catalogue, Owners Manual No. 197, Holidays 2021, arrived in my mailbox this week.  And there on page 5, he has offered for sale a Plaid Wool Cape, with the enticing caption:  “Capes are mysterious.  Alluring.  Functional. In the past, they’ve existed as an alternative to coats so you wouldn’t crush your real clothing…”  He goes on to say one will not want to take off this particular cape, as there could be nothing better under it.  Well, I guess that’s an arguable point, but you get the picture.  Capes demand attention, but in a good way.

I started thinking about the patterns I have gathered over the years, and I remembered at least two which feature capes.  Once I got into my pattern collection, I found four besides the one I am currently using.  

The earliest one is clearly this Vogue Couturier Design from the second half of the 1950s.

Its description reads:  “Suit and Reversible Cape.  Easy fitting jacket with concealed side pockets buttons below shaped collar.  Below elbow length sleeves.  Slim skirt joined to shaped waistband.  Reversible, collarless cape has arm openings in side front seams.”  I think this is pretty spectacular, and while the suit is lovely, it is enhanced many times over by the addition of the short cape.

Next is this Advance pattern from the 1960s, a cape in two lengths.  

The more I look at capes, the more I think I like the shorter versions.

I was attracted to this pattern because of its lengthwise darts, its rolled collar and back neckline darts.  

This diagram from the back of the envelope shows the finesse of the design.

The 1970s is represented by the Molyneux pattern I am using and two more: a Pucci design and a Sybil Connolly design.

I purchased the Pucci pattern for the dress (which I now believe to be too “youthful” for me), but its cape certainly completes the outfit.  The description reads:  “…Cape with jewel neckline has arm openings in side front seams; back vent [which I find interesting}.  Top-stitch trim.”

And the final cape pattern I own – almost a capelet – is this Sybil Connolly design.  The caption states “…Short asymmetrical flared cape has side button closing.”  No arm slits in this cape.  

I actually made this cape a number of years ago, but I must admit I have worn it infrequently.  The wide stance of the neckline makes it a little unstable.  I guess there is a good reason most capes have a tighter neckline – and open in the center front.  

So there is my whirlwind cape tour. What do you think?  Are capes alluring and mysterious?   Functional and sophisticated?  I, for one, think capes have a slightly romantic charm to them. Do you?  

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Filed under Advance vintage patterns, Capes, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Spending time on the Cape.

Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful vacation?  Picture billowy clouds reminiscent of  silk organza, gently undulating waves of turquoise hue, windswept flowers lining the landscape. . .   So where would one find this perfect setting?  I hope you’re not disappointed to learn that it all happened in my sewing room.  Yes, that’s correct – it has been wonderful, but this cape is the wearable kind, and I have definitely spent time on it!

The fabric in which I made my Couture dress was a length of linen I picked up last April.  When I found it, I did not yet have a pattern in mind for it so I thought I’d purchase enough (3 yards) to cover just about anything, and at 58” wide, I had a nice amount left over from my dress.  It just so happens that earlier in the Summer, I had found this pattern and added it to my collection:

Capes were in fashion in the 1970s and are again today!

I remembered this pattern from the 1970s and always liked the short cape, with its asymmetrical opening and clever folds of fabric resulting from that detail.

As I was working on my dress, I started to think about what else I could make from this lovely linen.  I didn’t particularly want to make a jacket, as I envisioned the dress as the focal point, but I did think it would be nice to have some kind of matching “wrap” for cool evenings. Well, the rest is quite obvious – I decided to make a short cape to go with my dress.

First I needed to find a silk lining fabric, which would compliment the linen.  I wanted a print of some sort to add some interest to the finished look.  I think I looked at every printed silk available on the internet!  I found lots of gorgeous designs, but only one which presented the possibility of both coordinating with the teal blue linen and introducing some other colors as well.  My old friend Britex Fabrics not only had this fabric, but  also had a vintage button among their extensive offerings, which looked like a good candidate for my needs.  I sent off for the button and swatch, and did indeed then order the silk charmeuse.

I like the abstract quality to this print.

Armed with my new-found couture techniques, I made a muslin pattern which helped me get the perfect fit over the shoulders (which is pretty much what a cape is all about).  I underlined the cape in that oh-so-wonderful silk organza, and added  interfacing, where required, of the same.  Some of this was a judgment call, as I determined were I could use couture features and where I had to follow the tailored construction of the cape.

This shows the silk organza underlining, and the side seam, catch-stitched to it.

One of the hem techniques I learned in The Couture Dress class was helpful with this hem.

Call me crazy, but I just love to make bound buttonholes.  Although the pattern called for a 2-inch button, the one I found was 1½ inches (and I thought it a more refined size anyway).  That still calls for a large buttonhole!  I practiced first, then got to work on the real thing.

The finished bound buttonhole

And the finished underside of the buttonhole.

And the button…

I understitched the facings by hand with that beautiful prick stitch, and attached the lining with the fell stitch.

A peak inside the cape.

Here is the finished look (unfortunately on a hanger and not on me…).

Here is the cape shown over my Couture dress

With one corner pinned up to show the lining.

This view shows the lovely draping formed by the asymmetrical opening.

And one more view.

Well, my time on the Cape officially draws my summer sewing to a close.  Now it’s going to be all wools or wool blends and maybe some silks – and I can’t wait!  Let’s throw an extra blanket on the bed and dream of cool nights and crisp days filled with creative hours of sewing. . .

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Capes, couture construction, Linen, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s