Did you think I had abandoned my cape? After an unexpectedly long hiatus from sewing – due to busy holidays, travel, and things out of my control – I finally returned to my sewing room last week. And although PINK is supposed to feature large in my 2022 sewing agenda, I first had “anything but pink” unfinished business from 2021. Yes, that cape which I thought would be such an easy make… I put the final stitches in it last week, only about 6 weeks after I imagined that would happen.
In all fairness, I should say whenever I must stop a project and then return to it weeks later, I always imagine that it has taken me much longer than it should have. There is a “reacquaintance” factor in the time involved. “Now, just where am I in this? What’s the next step? What did I do with the undercollar? Is the lining already cut out? If so, where is it?” and on and on. Believe it or not, I tend to be rather organized about my sewing, leaving notes for myself – that sort of thing. But still – the momentum needs to be rebooted, both for the project and for myself!
Enough of this babble. On to the cape – what worked, what didn’t, and what will I do differently, should I make this pattern again. Regardless – the cape is ready to wear, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.
I had to pay extensive attention to laying out the pattern and matching plaids as best I could, knowing that this uneven plaid was going to play some tricks on me. For the most part, I think I was fairly successful; at least there aren’t any glaring mismatches.
The arm slits are just lovely, both outside and inside:
I was a bit concerned about the size of the collar. This is a pattern from the 1970s, when collars tended to be a bit oversized. I certainly did not want this cape to scream 1970s, so I was ready to pare down those collar points if necessary. But I think the collar is perfect just the way it is.
The one component of this pattern I did have trouble with was the separate closing tab. The pattern, surprisingly, did not specify bound buttonholes. Rather it called for machine or hand-stitched buttonholes. I usually like to make bound buttonholes on wool fabric (there are exceptions, of course, but I did not look at this as one of those). So I dutifully went at it. But the narrow width of the tab made turning it, with bound buttonholes applied, nearly impossible. No, make that totally impossible. It was lumpy, uneven, and unacceptable. But I was not going to give up on my bound buttonholes. I decided to redraw the tab, using “squared-off ends” rather than rounded ends. I knew that would give me more space to manipulate all the interior buttonhole bulk. I also oriented the buttonholes horizontally instead of on an angle as shown in the lower pattern piece below.
Voila! It worked, and I think it might even be a better look than the tab with the rounded ends.
So – what would I change next time? I think I might add an inch or two in length. I think the cape pictured on the pattern envelope looks longer than the reality of it.
I also think I would taper the back hem of the cape to a gentle extended curve so that the back of the cape is about one to one-and-a-half inches longer than the front. When I visualize that, I like what I “see.”
Making this cape has reinforced my opinions about this type of outer covering – it is graceful and quietly elegant in this unfussy form, even in plaid. Finishing up this project was necessary, but also, as it turned out, a successful start to the new sewing year.
While bogged down in the fitting of these wool slacks, my mind has been thinking about capes instead.
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.
I was attracted to this pattern because of its lengthwise darts, its rolled collar and back neckline darts.
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?
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
Tagged as capes, fashion sewing, vintage fashion, vintage Vogue patterns