Deborah Ross: Let me count the ways to wear a cape...

If you ask me
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The Independent Online

If you ask me, all these fashion features offering guidance on "six ways to wear a cape" have failed to factor in those who cannot understand why anyone might wish to wear a cape the one way. Here is something I have noticed about capes: they have gaping slits where the sleeves should rightly be.

As an outer garment which should, by definition, garment your outer, how can it be fit for purpose when so much of it is absent? Would you buy socks without heels? Bras without cups? Have you ever seen a feature on "six ways to wear crotch-free trousers?" I accept I may be missing something. I am not a deeply fashionable person – working from home as I do, I haven't even brushed my hair since last May – but I can not get my head round capes.

And yet – and yet – they are endlessly described as the "must-have" of the season? Must-have? Or what? I fully accept that the polio vaccine, for example, is a must-have, but a cape? If I must have one but don't, might I get smallpox? I put it to the World Health Organisation, which replied as follows: "None of our research suggests capes offer any immunity against disease and we will therefore not be recommending that all children should have one before their third birthday." It also added, a propos of nothing: "As for must-have handbags, they will not and cannot protect you from contracting lupus."

What, even, is the point of a cape? Apparently, it offers "a fresh alternative to the winter coat", even though it is perfectly plain that the winter coat needs no alternative, fresh or otherwise. The winter coat not only garments your outer supremely well, but does it with sleeves. Indeed, hasn't the word "coat" itself become another way of saying "well covered?" Have you ever heard a painter and decorator say: "I'll just wait for the first cape of paint to dry before putting on the second cape?"

Tomorrow: Six ways to wear chunky knits, like we care