Here’s a little riddle for you. What do Wonder Woman, Queen Elizabeth I, Napoléon Bonaparte, Liberace, Grace Jones, Daenerys Targaryen, and André Leon Talley all have in common?
Visionaries, trailblazers, and renegades? Sure. Shapers of civilization or defenders of truth and beauty? Maybe… but also, capes.
Capes are the ultimate power garment. They’re dramatic, they’re grand, they’re mysterious. They elongate your line as they trail behind you, or they swirl and billow in a way that makes you look like an unstoppable, uncontrollable force. Sure, we all know Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders of all time, but would he really be so impressive without that cape?
Long favored by empresses, superheroes, cultural icons, and Zorro, capes are out on bridal runways in full force. And while you probably aren’t trying to imitate any of the people I mentioned on your wedding day (unless you’re getting married at ComicCon or are really into historical reenactments), there’s no denying that capes make a serious statement.
This isn’t the first time capes have been an element of the bridal ensemble. In 18th century England, before Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress, many brides walked down the aisle wearing the hooded scarlet capes that were considered the must-have items for any respectable socialite.
The bridal capes we’ve been getting in have been just as impressive as those I’ve mentioned, but they have also managed to be…well, bridal. With delicate lace, ethereal tulle, soft pearls, and intricate beading, these are a far cry from Wonder Woman’s patriotic pop of color or Liberace’s fabulous yards of camp. On a hanger, our wedding capes often get mistaken for veils. But once they’re on, they accentuate the line of the head, neck, and shoulders in a way that veils don’t. Instead of covering up, they show off. They provide majesty and mystery, but with a big dose of confidence.
We already gave you a peek at Alyssa Kristin’s pearl-studded cape/kimono hybrid last week, but since then, we’ve gotten in a few new styles. Below, a selection of our bridal capes, cape-like pieces, and cape inspiration from throughout the ages.
This airy tulle cape by Chic Nostalgia moves so beautifully, we couldn’t not play with it! With the delicate sequined lace and the breezy A-line skirt on the dress, wearing it feels like being in a fairytale.
Pronovias is calling these beautiful pleated lace pieces Watteau capes, after the 18th century’s distinctive Watteau gowns. Originally called “sack-back gowns,” these gowns were the French aristocracy’s answer to the loungewear question, and for years no self-respecting court lady would wear one in public. But then they decided that comfort was key, and sack-back gowns took off like lululemon. Painter Antoine Watteau adored the style and painted the pleated backs in such loving detail that they became known as “Watteau gowns.” We love the clean drape and the way the lace on the cape layers over the lace on the dress.
Detail from l’Enseigne de Gersaint, by Antoine Watteau
The grandeur! This cape by Pronovias Atelier is by far the longest and most striking one we have. The lace pattern is incredibly unique, and with all those glittering sequins, this is a complete showstopper!
Short tulle and lace cape worn by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, 1901.
If you don’t want the extravagance or formality of a floor-length cape but still want some movement and coverage, try a capelet. They’re a little floatier and more practical, but still extremely elegant.
We wish you could feel how yummy the fabric is on this beautiful Paloma Blanca. The white shimmer on the capelet would be perfect for a fall/winter wedding, but whatever the season, this is a wonderfully comfortable, unfussy ensemble that will really show you off.
Hooded gown ~ Pronovias Atelier
I know I just said that capes show off the head and shoulders. But we’re including this hooded gown by Pronovias Atelier because hoods and capes go together like peanut butter and jelly, and because even separately, they’re two of the coolest garments you can possibly wear. Once again, just ask Grace Jones.