Fashion: Is it a cape, wrap or a poncho?

Is it a cape, is it a wrap or is it a poncho? It doesn’t matter, says Stephanie Smith – just get one, now.

Plus faux fur trim cape, £39.
Plus faux fur trim cape, £39.

There is an art to cape wearing. Confidence is key. Just a hint of apologetic uncertainty, a touch of “Is this really me?”, and it looks all wrong.

It’s hard to see why, in 2015, anyone would feel even slightly nervous about wearing a cape. They have been around for seasons in their current on-trend guise and for decades, centuries and millennia before that, and yet still, there are some fashion-phobic types who see them as examples of the sort of garb worn chiefly by those who “consider themselves a bit above”.

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Ignore them, one and all, and leave them to their dull duffles and predictable fleeces. However, there is undoubtedly something rather glamorous about even the most sensible of capes. There’s the sweeping nature, of course, the way they drape and move, and can be worn asymmetrically in ways that don’t conform to the straight and narrow. But also capes bring proportions that flatter almost all shapes and sizes, with volume on the top half, allowing legs to look elongated and shapely beneath. With skinny jeans or leggings, they look good with all kinds of boots, from knee-high to ankle boots, including flats.

If you are short, and want to look taller, try capes that are cropped to hip length or even to just above the waist, perhaps layered over a slightly longer knit. This also works quite well if you try a short cape (tweed or knitted) over a knitted tunic dress – and if you stick to the same colour or keep it all tonal, this is a beautifully pulled-together and elegant look for all shapes, sizes and heights.

Sister garments include the wrap and the poncho, although actually, all these descriptions are used interchangeably, I note from online product descriptions. As far as I am concerned, a poncho has just one opening, to allow through the head. Often, it is knitted and has a fringed hem. If it’s split edge to edge, it’s a cape. If it looks like a blanket, it’s a blanket wrap, probably the single most useful item of indoor/outdoor clothing you will ever buy, handy for trains and planes, keeping in the car or your shopper bag, for drying damp children, pets and hair.