Your Stylist: Capes and ponchos are fall’s fabulous outerwear

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The word ‘poncho’ can conjure up visions of the Old West or of a garbage bag with a circle cut through the top –- a common solution for rainy day recess or unexpected showers during a marathon.

But for fall, ponchos of the posher variety glided down designer runways looking sleek, elegant and ladylike.


The poncho and its cousin the cape coat are trickling into stores now. They offer a stylish alternative to the typical fall coat, providing just the right amount of warmth for a 63-degree autumn day in L.A.

The terms cape and poncho may seem interchangeable, but they are two different kinds of outwear. According to the Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, a cape is sleeveless, cut as a circle or half circle and has slits for the arms. A poncho is shaped like a square or small oblong with a hole in the center to put your head through.

Both have a dramatic, swooping silhouette that makes the wearer look something like a chic superhero. And both could be thrown over something as simple as pajamas and still look great.

For something more sophisticated, you could go with the ‘70s-inspired, camel-colored cape as seen on the Lanvin runway or something straight-up preppy, such as a plaid duffle cape with toggle buttons from Fidelity Sportswear.

A solid piece will be more versatile. Punch it up by layering a long-sleeved striped or printed shirt underneath.

A patterned cape or poncho, on the other hand, is a statement piece and everything else it is worn with should be solid or subdued.

For a petite frame, be careful it isn’t too bulky, and watch the length. If the garment is too long, you’ll look like a little igloo with feet.

The great thing about a poncho or cape is that it can be dressed up or down and it’s a nice departure from the usual outerwear.

And seriously, on one my lazier days, I threw my blue and black plaid cape over sweatpants and a black fitted sweater and shoved on some flat brown leather motorcycle boots and no one knew the difference…at least that’s what I told myself.

--Melissa Magsaysay


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Photos: Top left: A look from Lanvin FW2011 - Yannis Vlamos /, top right: A look from Zero Maria Cornejo FW2011 - Monica Feudi /

Left: DKNY two-tone wool cape, $495, at www.netaporter/netaporter

Right: Stella McCartney wool and cashmere blend cape, $1,395, at

Middle left: Fidelity Sportswear plaid duffle cape, $268, at Alan

Middle right: H&M coat, $199, at H&M stores/H&M