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Ready To Wear: You can't save the world while wearing a cape


No capes!" shouts Edna Mode, in the Pixar classic The Incredibles. "Do you remember Thunderhead? Tall, storm powers? Nice man, good with kids. All was well, another day saved, when his cape snagged on a missile fin! Metaman, express elevator! Dynaguy, snagged on take-off! Splashdown, sucked into a vortex! No capes!"

Thankfully the perils of cape wearing as far as fashion – and not merely saving the world – is concerned are not quite so acute. That said, even sartorially speaking, this is a garment that is best handled with care and, where budget is no object, a price point that reflects the "look at me" contrived quality wearing one entails.

For autumn it's worth pointing out that it is very definitely capes – and not ponchos – that are on the agenda. The much-maligned pashmina ensures that the poncho remains dead in the water. The more structured cape, on the other hand, is best seen for now reflecting not superhero qualities but a somewhat repressed, Gothic mood. Think mad women in the attic: all high collars, tiny shoulders, consumptive complexions and rarely anything as upbeat as a smile.

The dark and distressed quality of long, bouclé wool capes that graze the ankles at Chanel are lovely to behold. These are either tulip-shaped or trimmed with a heavy wool rib that weighs down the hem, both of which ensure there's no unseemly flapping involved. Otherwise: long cape, Scottish Widows. You have been warned.

Elsewhere, capes are short, covering the bottom but ensuring that legs long and lean balance a silhouette that might otherwise appear matronly. They're also comparatively narrow. Capes look smart, sweet and neat, coin-dotted at Marc Jacobs, exude Parisian elegance worn with long, leather gloves at Lanvin and are simply beautiful in pale gold brocade at Giles.

Finally, Yves Saint Laurent's Stefano Pilati proposes a black silk cape should be buttoned at the throat over a Le Smoking all-in-one finished with chiffon. The volume in this instance decrees that it is perhaps best worn only on more formal occasions, however, when the risk of being sucked into a vortex, say, is really very small indeed.