By Janet Kelly
AS THE days between early and mid-to-late fall become cooler and, shorter—alas—we’re going to need an extra layer. Our candidates for those temperatures? Capes or ponchos. Although designers use those terms loosely and often interchangeably, in general, a cape is an outer garment that fits closely at the neck and hangs loosely over the shoulders. Ponchos are more like blankets with a slit in the middle through which your head goes.
You don’t have to be a super hero to wear either, but confidence in your sense of style helps—so you can wear with swagger.
Both ponchos and capes got some love from the Fall 2021 runways, where designers from Etro to Jil Sander gave them a heads-up as trend-worthy silhouettes. They’ve been in regular rotation at Chloe for years.
Because they will attract the most attention to what you’re wearing, it’s best to lower the volume on or coordinate with your lesser players—pants, boots, sweaters. Take a hint from Loro Piana’s styling of its rose-colored Agathe cape.
Yes, practical issues such as how to carry a handbag with either style are to be reckoned with. Wearing a shoulder bag under a poncho or cape adds unnecessary bulk, plus it looks awkward and uncomfortable. Choose a clutch or top-handle bag for easy accessibility.
New and unexpected color and color combinations —pink, pale blue checks, plaid, as well as textures (pointelle)— make the decision to invest in a poncho, cape or both an appealing one this fall.
Here are some to consider.
LEFT: A voluminous, cool blue-check cape is made from a felted wool blend. Take note of the thoughtful details: cozy rib knit-lined high neck, partial zip-front and side-snap closures. It’s from Isabel Marant’s Étoile label and is $770 at Nordstrom.
RIGHT: No one does cashmere like Loro Piana, and has been noted here previously, you pay for it. But oh, to own this warm and enveloping but light as air, impeccably made Agathe Cape. I’m smitten with those buttons. Style it as shown, and you’ll look like a million bucks.
LEFT: Made to wrap neatly around your shoulders, this single-breasted Allora wool cashmere cape comes with a funnel collar that hides hand-sewn nickel snaps. Generously deep slits allow plenty of arm movement to hail a cab or swing your top-handled handbag. Overall, a perfect piece to wear over other equally tailored clothing. Made in Melbourne, it comes in five other colors and is $606 at Wolf & Badger.
RIGHT: It may share some of the details of a traditional trench — pointed collar, neutral hue and storm flap— but Cos Stores’s Relaxed-Fit Cape ($225) has more style going for it. Wear it now to fend off the rain drops; later, layer it over a chunky knit sweater or dress.
LEFT: When your cotton T-shirt is no longer weather appropriate, swap it for this colorful, loosely knit, boldly striped turtleneck poncho, which sells for $130 at Anthropologie. Distressed, hole-y jeans not necessary nor recommended.
RIGHT: More cowl neck than turtleneck, this diagonally striped poncho ($120, Anthropologie) serves up warmth, bright hues and rows of fun-to-wear, multi-colored tassels. Fringe is in full swing again.
LEFT: Soft and oh-so-plush-looking, Lafayette 148 New York’s Italian alpaca silk poncho ($498) is shown here worn over a sweater in a gorgeous blue that reminds me of the sea surrounding a Greek island. Be careful to counter the relaxed look with trim pants or a pencil skirt.
RIGHT: Designer Gabriela Hearst’s clothing collections are as shockingly spendy as they are sought after. This 100-percent cashmere blanket/shawl or ruana, hand knit by a women’s collective in Hearst’s native Uruguay, is no exception. Depending on your point of view, it’s an arty, über-stylish statement or bears a striking resemblance to your grandmother’s afghan. While you wouldn’t wear you granny’s throw, Hearst’s website suggests this pricey piece should double as a home accent.
LEFT: Army green stays strong this fall. To wit, a padded cape/jacket from Milan, Italy-based Twinset. Made of lightweight nylon, this urban-chic piece stands out with a variety of quilted patterns, appliquéd kangaroo pockets and a hood. It’s $223 at Farfetch.
RIGHT: Lately, I’ve been noticing sweaters with pointelle (airy, open stitching) patterns from the likes of Ulla Johnson, Vince and Gucci, too. That makes good sense when you’re looking for a lightweight sweater for fall’s in-between weather days. So, don’t put away those summery white pants yet. Pair them with Talbot’s cotton-blend Lattice Poncho ($139).
LEFT: When the temperature dips, wrap up in a mohair, alpaca and wool-blend tartan check coat that doubles as a cape and includes fringe benefits. On cold winter days, drape it over a slim-fitting coat. It’s $399 at Farfetch.
RIGHT: A contemporary Italian brand that retains its vintage-inspired roots, P.A.R.O.S.H. offers it buffalo-check cape ($635, Farfetch) in a classic silhouette and colors. What gives it panache are the riff on the traditional check pattern, a useful hood, and sleeves, the front, the sides and hem edged with fringe. Wear with black leggings. Forget the cumbersome shoulder bag; instead opt for a cheery yellow mini sac.