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Cardinal Cape

Cardinal Cape

Cardinal Cape

This Cape form was a favorite item of dress in the American colonies from the time of the early settlers. This cape is called a “cardinal” because of its color. It was made of a tightly woven wool cut on the bias and left with a raw edge along the hem. The hooded cape is gathered in a circular shape at the back to stand high without crushing the coiffure underneath. By the late 18th century, cardinals could be bought ready-made in England.

 A cape is a sleeveless outer garment, which drapes the wearer’s back, arms and chest, and fastens at the neck. In fashion, the word “cape” usually refers to a shorter garment and “cloak” to a full-length version of the different types of clothing, though the two terms are used synonymously for full-length coverings.

Capes were standard in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood. Catholic clergy wears a cape for formal events and as liturgical vestment often highly decorated with elaborate embroidery. Capes remain in regular use as rain-wear in various military units.


  • Title:              Cape
  • Date:              Last third 18th century
  • Geography:   England
  • Materials:      Wool
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Facts about Fashion

  • The loincloth is the oldest item of clothing.
  • The second oldest item of clothing is the skirt.
  • Perfumes were used from the Ancient Egyptian Era for religious rituals, and the fashion has been thus since then.
  • In ancient times, purple clothes were only worn by emperors, magistrates, and the aristocracy.
  • The Ancient Romans wore yellow clothing on their wedding days.
  • During the Renaissance, aristocratic women used to shave their eyebrows. Note Mona Lisa’s eyebrows.
  • In the 15th century, being pregnant was popular for female portraits, so girls who were not pregnant used to put a small pillow under their clothes to create the illusion of the baby bump potential.
  • Men wore high heels to ride horses up until 1740. It was thought that the heels helped them to ride horses better.
  • The wig, which is commonly worn by judges today, derived from the days of King Louis XIII. The French King was balding and wore a massive wig to appear macho and dominant. He created the fashion for the European aristocracy.
  • Napoleon had brass buttons sewn on the sleeves of his soldiers’ uniforms to discourage them from wiping their noses on their uniforms.
  • Mark Twain invented and patented the bra-strap clasp.
  • Up until the early 1910s, it was common for little boys to wear dresses until they were around five years old.
  • Before Queen Victoria’s white wedding, white was a color traditionally associated with mourning.
  • In 1909, the U.S. Navy banned naked lady tattoos on a service member’s arms. To join the Navy, men had to have clothes tattooed on their nude bodies.
  • The famous Lacoste crocodile symbol was created in 1933 and was the first designer logo ever.
  • In the United States, on average, each person owns seven pairs of jeans.

Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art

MET European Paintings Collection

MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

MET Greek and Roman Art Collection

MET Egyptian Art Collection

MET Asian Art Collection

MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection

MET American Wing Collection

MET Islamic Art Collection

MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection

MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection

MET Medieval Art Collection

MET Drawings and Prints Collection

MET Costume Institute Collection

MET Arms and Armor Collection

MET Photograph Collection

MET Musical Instrument Collection

Explore the MET



  • Why is the cape a popular clothing item for superheroes like Superman?
  • Why have Capes become less frequent?
  • What do you find the most interesting about fashion?


“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”
– Yves Saint Laurent


Photo Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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