Why the Movies Are So Obsessed With Capes

When was the last time you saw anyone in the real world wear a cape (not counting trick-or-treaters)? In the Pixar movie The Incredibles, superhero costume designer Edna Mode declares capes forbidden. They are too dangerous. And she's right- in the real world, anyone flying around fighting evildoers risks being tangles or dragged down by a cape. But they live large in movies, because a cape is the most dramatic piece of fabric you can wear.

Pop a cape on a vampire, and you get an invocation of a bat’s wings. Capes can evoke a sense of history, real or imagined, as in the Lord of the Rings movies or any number of period dramas. (Cecil B. DeMille did love a good cape — no male actor has ever worked one better than Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments.) Capes can signify otherworldliness or intimidation, as they often do with superheroes and witches.

But pop a fur cape on Crawford in The Women or a billowy number on seductress Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, and the message is clear: I am glamorous. I am gorgeous. I am everything you wish you could be. “A cape is the ultimate fashion accessory when you want to make a grand entrance,” explains Perez. “You are instantly regal in a cape.”

Read about the way Hollywood uses capes in both the past and the present at Racked. -via Kottke

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