There's an unfortunate stage that most goths go through. I call it the Capetarded Stage, and yes, it involves wearing an actual vampire cape.
Why do we do it? I don't know. I guess it has a lot to do with going a bit overboard when you begin the darksome melodrama that makes up most of being goth. In general, mature goths forsake such gauche geekiness for a more modern approach.
That being said, is wearing a cape an actual gothic fashion faux pas? Should we let the wearers work through it, or should we beat sense into them with their own boots wrapped in the cloaks like a Numbers version of the sock bath?
To answer that question I summoned the Gothic Council. Joining us this week is DJ Martin Oldgoth, Toby Ride of Ending the Vicious Cycle, blogger Drusilla Grey, Jvstin Whitney of Church of Melkarth, author of the Encyclopedia Gothica Liisa Ladouceur, and Becky Plexco, webmistress of Morticia's Morgue.
Martin Oldgoth: Never. There is no excuse, except maybe if you're attending a costume party as a dickhead. Or Count Duckula. Unless you're Pete Murphy of course, but even then it's a fine line between looking really, really silly, and only a bit silly.
Toby Rider: I like what are called Inverness capes. They're an old style of Highland cloak/overcoat that appeared in the 17th century. Bagpipe bands wear them when they march in the rain, which of course is quite often in Scotland. They allow the wearer access to the sporran with having to unbutton.
Goggle image search "Inverness Cape" to see them. Sherlock Holmes wore a derivation of the Inverness cape.
Martin Oldgoth: I can't think of capes without thinking of the Scottish Widows ad.
Drusilla Grey: I just finished fastening a Batman cape on my five-year-old son to wear to Whole Foods...
Capes are OK for the Renaissance Festival. Or for the opera. They can sometimes work for women when going out, but it depends on the bearing of the wearer. You need to look classy and confident, not like you're carrying a pouch of 12-sided dice on your way to see a friend who lives in their mother's basement...
And if you're going to wear a cape, invest in a nice one, not some cheap costume store rag, unless it's just being worn as a silly costume or for D&D...
Jvstin Whitney: Of course, since I always make it a point to go full special, I do wear a cloak quite frequently, but that doesn't mean it's okay. The most hilarious thing I've been called was a Satanic Jawa.
And of course when wearing the full-band getup with the face wraps, people assume I'm a Mortal Kombat ninja and yell Scorpion's catchphrases at me. I don't know how people make it past 25 without a sense of humor in a subculture.
Becky Plexco: I agree with Drusilla and Toby on this one. Depends on the cape and the wearer. But I live in New Orleans now, where people wear a lot of capes and extreme clothes in general. If you're going to wear one it should serve a purpose (it's cold outside), you're wearing a formal sleeveless ball gown to a formal event (and your cape is beautiful, not bought at Party City).
Capes are more of a vampire thing. Inverness capes rock because they're a combination of coat and cape and Barnabas Collins wore one.
Liisa Ladouceur: As a teenage goth, I had a vintage velvet cape. I wore it on trips to Toronto which has a subway grate in front of City Hall. My friends and I would stand and take photos on it, and when the subway cars swooshed by below, the air would shoot up and we would pose like some like of Dracula meets Marilyn Monroe.
So yes, I approve of capes, cloaks, etc. For children. For teenage goths. And for adults dressing up for the opera or D&D or a wedding or whatever. If it's a self-parody, so be it. I don't think it looks any more ridiculous than flip-flops or sweatpants, which apparently most of the world has no problem with.
Carmilla Voiez: I wore a cape one year in Whitby in October/November when heavily pregnant. I could no longer fit into any coat. Even so I felt very self-conscious and kind of like a caricature of myself. Some people do it well, but it's easy to get it wrong and look like you're trying way too hard.
Liisa Ladouceur: OK, then, can someone explain to me and the world then why a cape is so verboten? Is it because it's ostentatious? Because I think that's a positive hallmark of gothdom.
In general, I like to see clothes that suit the occasion. Which is why I hate flip-flops outside the beach or pool; they are ugly and designed for function, and that function is the beach or the pool. Or hostel bathrooms. Don't inflict it on me on the street!
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And I find that most non-goth people simply don't rise to occasion anymore. Have you been to the opera lately? I'm pretty sure I've seen flip-flops there. And even plenty of goths are slacking.
So to make up for that, I'm very much in favor of dressing up above and beyond the acceptable norm, be that busting out latex or extremely impractical footwear or corsets or yes, even capes. If you feel like a cartoon wearing one just because it's a goth cliché -- and I admit I too would feel silly wearing a cape to, say, go walkabout a graveyard -- you do realize that everything else you are wearing is probably a cliché too, right?