The Inescapable, Unavoidable Cape: Past and Present Patterns

Capes and ponchos sewing patterns through the decades. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

Capes: You either adore their casual chicness or consider them an unflattering waste of good fabric. Like culottes, capes and ponchos seem to resurface every decade in fashion. Let’s take a look at some of the cape patterns we’ve offered through the years:

Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1930s: Capes were often paired with suits like this. Very Katharine Hepburn.
Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1940s: If padded shoulders were big in the ’40s, then again in the ’80s, does this mean the 2020s will be all about looking like linebackers again?
Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1950s: Capes were utterly ladylike and often paired with gloves.
Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1960s: Poncho time! This doesn’t look very different from the ponchos of today. Except we don’t wear a fez with our ponchos.
Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1970s: Amazing how everything from the ’70s fits right in with today’s styles.
Decades of capes and poncho sewing patterns from the McCall Pattern Company.
1980s: Oh the drama. You can feel Donna Karan’s influence on the decade just looking at this pattern illustration.
Cape inspiration F/W 2015
RTW cape inspiration: l-r, Joseph Lina, Missoni, Thakoon. Images from Net-a-Porter.
cape patterns
Cape pattern options. Clockwise from top left: Kwik Sew K4031, Vogue Patterns V8959, McCall’s M7202, and Butterick B6250.

Ok, so have we convinced you to sew a cape this season? Where do you stand on capes? Leave a comment and let us know!

  1. I’m making a gorgeous purple cape in wool. I love capes and culottes too. The cape is almost finished, just a few bound buttonholes, lining, finishing details… Oh, it’s not even close. But, I can’t wait to show it off. It will be done for this season though, so help me…

  2. I sewed a cape for spring earlier this year. I love it…except for the lining fabric I chose. It’s noisy. So I rarely wear the cape 🙁

    I think they are very stylish though when the proportions are right!

  3. I love capes. They are so chic and dramatic.

  4. You should get one of your designers to recreate the 1950’s #7891. That camel colored cape is awesome! The shoulder lines and collar are beautiful.

    1. yes, I love that tailored look too! I would really love to have that pattern for some Harris tweed I bought recently. I have a short cardigan cape (knitted, Rowan fall 2011) that ends at my low hip and with arm slits facing forward it is no trouble while driving. It is so versatile I use it while traveling. My small hand bag goes under the cape further deterring pickpockets.

  5. I’m handicap and also battling cancer. Capes are so easy on and easy off. If it’s colder just wear more layers to take off. I have material for a cape right now to make. Will I get it done?, I’m still hoping yes. Make a cape and enjoy! Culottes? Well that’s a different story. Wore them the first time around, don’t want to wear them again.

  6. About this time last year (heading towards the warmer weather down under), I saw someone wearing a cross between a suit jacket and a cape. After searching and searching I did find something similar in RTW and bought it but is not quite right. Both the original that I saw and the one that I bought had the body of a suit jacket but the sleeves were open at the under arm all the way down to the wrist and flowed so they gave the effect of a cape. The jacket that I bought has a shawl collar and a single covered snap at the front. The original that I saw had I think a Nehru collar and was buttoned all the way up the front. Both were black and the one I saw was worn with a full sleeved white blouse underneath. Gorgeous and I’ve only worn the one I bought once or twice (the fit isn’t prefect) but I’ve not seen a pattern anywhere for anything similar!

    1. Hi!

      Were you looking for something like V1322?

  7. I do love capes (no shoulder pads, please!) and even semi-cape coats, like the Watson jacket from Papercut patterns. While perusing your photos, I realised that capes are not very far from these cocoon coats which were so popular last winter.

  8. I love capes!! Last year I came across some wool and made a cape from mccalls 5764 view c with a nice belt at waist. I lined this because of the wool. This year I am making the same view c but out of a wool flannel in fall colors. I enjoy wearing the cape for warmth and comfort, also great fit.

  9. I say we bring back the fez!
    I like capes but have never made one. Maybe this is the year.

  10. My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE trend… So glad to see it through this winter! I have a few on my list already!

  11. Oh yes, I’m right into capes at the moment! I love 30s/40s styles, but I think the 60s/70s styles work perfectly with current fashions. I made a lovely (vintage Vogue pattern) cape about a month ago for the Frocktails event in Melbourne, Australia, and it was such a joy to see it turn out just as I envisaged – and so much fun to wear! I do really need to blog it – I’ve only managed to blog my frocktails dress so far!!

  12. I want to like capes….but I just don’t. Had knitted ponchos in the 70’s sort of a hippie style…..but rarely wear anything like that…..besides I think today at my age I might look like a mushroom!

  13. I feel about capes the same way I feel about sleeveless turtleneck sweaters: Why? If it is cold enough to wear a coat, why would you choose an outer garment that has no sleeves? If it is cold enough to wear a sweater with an oversized collar, why would you choose to leave your arms bare?

    I do like to see a giant, flowing Moroccan burnoose, or an Irish Kinsale cloak, just not on me. Closest I come to wearing a cape is the Miyake blanket with sleeves thing from the 80s, V1476.

  14. I saw a picture of a cape so thin, it could be worn as a scarf so I’m going to make something like that this winter.

  15. The Vogue 1980s cape was the perfect pregnancy coat for me. After I finished with it, it was passed around to several friends. It made the rounds. Everyone loved it. Capes are great if you don’t have to drive or deal with a seatbelt. These days although they are cute, they are too much trouble in the car for me.

  16. Not for me. Not since I grew out of my Dracula phase.

  17. Nope capes are definitely not for me. But that Vogue 5904 poncho is not bad.

  18. I love capes. I have 2 so I don’t feel the need to add. I do love Vogue 5904, the black and white one – gorgeous!

  19. Loving the 1930 cape would love this is pattern

  20. I love capes! I have about 10 vintage ones, maybe more. I love the versatility of them and the timeless style.

  21. I love capes, made one in the ’70’s that I loved, wish I still had the pattern. I bought material to make one so I will definitely be wearing at least one this season.

  22. I love capes. I had a gorgeous brown plaid one – the wool was so thick and warm. It had side panels under the long flowy part, but not having sleeves was a problem and I used to think I could sew some onto the side panels, but I never did. Still, I wore that cape for about 15 years before my sister made me throw it out (I kept the woven leather buttons). The only problem with capes is that they make shoulder bags impossible to wear. Otherwise, I’d make one now!

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