There are times when fashion and common sense are on a collision course. This is one of those times.
I'm talking about the cape. You've seen it on fashion blogs and in magazines. It's portrayed as an alternative to the coat this fall and winter. And on certain women — impossibly tall, thin models — it can look good in a photo. Providing, of course, that the model is not holding anything, walking the dog, opening a door or trying to use her arms to wrestle a screaming infant into a car seat.
Of all the bad style ideas that have trended to the top of the heap in recent years (capri pants, sparkly blue eye shadow, leggings instead of pants), this is among the worst.
Let's count the ways that capes are not a good idea.
1. You'll freeze.
You'll notice in the accompanying picture that one of the things capes do not have is sleeves. Instead, they have slits for your arms. Fast-forward a few weeks from now when the temperature has dropped to below freezing.
Think of those arm slits as open windows, welcoming the arctic winds that whip around here until May. Do you open all the doors and windows when the wind chill is 20 or 30 below? I didn't think so. The cape is the fashion equivalent of driving a convertible top down in an ice storm.
Or as the nice man at Barneys told me when I was scrutinizing a Comme des Garcons cape recently, "If you're thinking warmth, no!"
2. You'll look bad.
Even in a luxurious fabric, there's no getting around it: Capes are not flattering. They are, after all, essentially a bag, with a cutout hole for your head. Nobody looks good in a bag. Even a bag like the one shown here, double breasted in a lovely houndstooth with leather trim on the arm flaps. You're still wearing a sack.
Now, imagine yourself sticking your arms through those slits, trying to juggle a 12-pack of Diet Coke and a week's supply of Lean Cuisines up a couple of flights of steps. Awkward. Still not convinced? Read on.
3. You'll look really bad.
Because this garment has no sleeves (see No. 1 above), you will need to wear — at the very least — a heavy sweater underneath to keep your arms warm when you need to expose them to insert your
card or fiddle with your phone. So, instead of a single layer, you'll be wearing at least two. Setting aside the fact that it's not cost effective, does anyone look better with more padding? Not a good style strategy unless you're going for a linebacker look.
4. The clash factor.
As if appearing presentable in public isn't enough of a challenge — especially in winter — the cape offers a whole new realm of opportunity to make bad fashion choices.
Now, you'll have to worry about whether what you're wearing beneath complements your outerwear. It's the sleeve problem once again. Consider how bad this cape would look if what was poking through the arm flaps was a colorful print blouse. Or a striped sweater. Or almost anything in your closet.
5. Playing dress-up.
The very essence of the cape is fancy fashion. A cape is simply not a casual look. Think you can wear your cape with gym shoes? It just won't look right. Still tempted? Try it on with your Reeboks before you buy. If it's winter versatility you want, buy a coat. With a zip-in lining. And maybe a detachable hood. Waterproof is always nice.
6. You've got baggage.
In sharp contrast to the lithe young woman looking sharp in a glossy fashion spread wearing her cape, you carry a purse. A big purse. And often a tote bag or backpack with your gym clothes and lunch. And another bag to hold your laptop.
Most of us manage all this stuff by slinging it over our shoulder(s). Unfortunately, when wearing a cape, you don't have a shoulder. A cape eliminates this essential piece of your anatomy as a resting place for your gear.
For me, this is the clincher. When you're wearing a cape, the only purse or bag you can carry is one of those ladylike handbags.
The shoulder bags slide right off. Now your bags are on the filthy, wet, slippery, icy, snowy sidewalk as you struggle — with your arms sticking through those silly flaps — to retrieve them.
Now it's your turn.
Are there other fashion trends that don't make any sense? How about shorts (even with heavy tights) in winter? Or coats with 3/4 length sleeves? Tell me your nominees. And, if you think my cape rant is all wrong, I'm listening. Email