Cloaks: Comfort And Style Through The Ages

You know these garments from fantasy characters such as Harry Potter or superheroes such as Batman, but before these guys got the reputation for being masters of the cloak, let’s take a look back at where these garments began.


Dating back to Roman times, the cloak made its first appearance primarily as a blanket or bed covering.  It was also sported as an outer garment, but that was not its main function from the get go.  With the cloak conveying so much comfort, it is no surprise that it quickly spread to the likes of the Scots and Arabs, as well as making a splash in the Middle Ages.  Cloaks before this period were most likely made of wool, as was most clothing back then.  With medieval cloaks came a bit more variety, as they were constructed from fleece, satin, or velvet, according to what each person could afford.  These cloaks were also quite long, reaching to the ground.

Medieval Cloak (Reversible):

Medieval Cloak (Reversible)

Up until the Renaissance era, cloaks were worn solely for warmth and to protect against inclimate weather.  The initial shape was circular with a hole in the middle for the head, similar to a Mexican poncho.  The Renaissance period brought about more definition to the cloak as they introduced tailored garments, fitted at the shoulders to balance its length and secure it.  To this day, a cloak is known for its fitted shoulders and full length, which is not to be confused with a cape, a shorter, more casual piece.  Cloaks are commonly associated with formal events, such as operas and evening parties.

Through the centuries, the cloak has manifested in various types.  For example, the 18th century introduced a true cloak luxury to Britain that became very popular.  Known as the cardinal or scarlet cloak, this ¾ length garment was crafted of double-milled scarlet wool with a hood of silk lining and a quilted collar.  Skip ahead to the 1850s where mantelets emerged and stayed trendy until the 1890s.  These cloaks were hip length and made from a wide array of material including taffeta, silk, and pleated chiffon.  During the late 1890s, cloaks became even more elaborate with the addition of beads and lace trim.

Hooded Cotton Cloak:

Hooded Cotton Cloak

Moving ahead to modern times, cloaks became slimmer and more form fitting in the early 1900s.  However, the Victorian era revived bigger cloaks to mask such things as pregnancy.  By the 1930s, cloaks were worn mainly as evening wear and in the 1950s, cloaks made a small comeback as day wear.  Today, cloaks continue to be popular for special occasions and costumes.  Seeing as how some variation of the cloak has been around since the dawn of time and still are going strong, it is safe to say they have a few more centuries of wear left!

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