Cape can be used to describe any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening about the neck. They were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic returns to fashion, for example, in nineteenth century Europe. Roman Catholic clergy wear a type of cape known as a ferraiolo, which is worn for formal events outside of a liturgical context. The cope is a liturgical vestment in the form of a cape. Copes are often highly decorated with elaborate embroidery. Capes remain in regular use as rain wear in various military units and police forces, for example in France. A gas cape was a voluminous military garment designed to give rain protection to someone wearing the bulky gas masks used in twentieth century wars. In modern times, comic-book super-heroes, such as Superman and Batman, are often depicted wearing capes.
In fashion, the word cape usually refers to a shorter garment and cloak to a full-length version of the different types of garment, and though the two terms are sometimes used synonymously for full-length coverings, the shortest versions are never referred to as cloaks. The fashion cape does not cover the front to any appreciable degree. In raingear, a cape is usually a long and roomy protective garment worn to keep one dry in the rain.
In full evening dress, ladies frequently use the cape as a fashion statement, or to ...