Cloak Vs Cape: What Is The Difference?

When you think of a cloak or cape, your first thought might be superheroes and mysterious villains. Yet, both pieces of clothing can add a bit of mystery and style to your wardrobe.

When it comes to these two garments, it’s easy to confuse one for the other. As a result, we need to learn the difference, so we don’t make that mistake again. 

In this article, we are going to go through the key differences between a cloak and a cape. Thus, you will never mistake the two again and will know which one you should have in your wardrobe. 

Cloak Vs Cape: What Is The Difference?

Cape Vs Cloak – The Basics

When it comes to these two garments, there aren’t too many differences between them.

As both the cape and cloak have been designed to keep the upper body of the wearer warm and dry in cold and wet weather.

Yet each garment is tailored to a particular function that the other isn’t. 

Cloaks are longer out of the two garments. A cloak will cover your entire body, starting around your neck and reaching down past towards your ankles.

In a few cases, you can purchase a cloak that will reach the floor. This is because a traditional cloak is meant to keep your whole body warm

While, capes are the shorter out of the two garments. They don’t fall as far down, normally only reach your thigh.

This is because capes are meant to cover just the back of your body. Thus, these are more of a fashion statement than used for practical use. 

For example, a cape can be used to keep your shoulder warm while on a cold evening.

Or if you are wearing a sleeveless or off the shoulder gown, then a cape can not only keep you warm while traveling to the party.

Yet, the cape will add a hint of mystery and romance to your overall look as well.

Characteristics Of A Cloak And Cape

Below are some more key points that can help you distinguish between a cloak and a cape. We go into deeper detail about the differences and characteristics of these two garments further on in the article. 

However, this is a quick summary for you to be able to quickly tell the difference between the two:


  • Area Of Body – A cloak will cover the majority of your body. This includes your back, arms, and chest.
  • Fastening – Typically a cloak is fastened at the neck of the garment. They are unusually tired or there is a clasp that can be used. Occasionally, there will be buttons that you can use to fasten the cloak.
  • Material – Made from wool or other warming fabrics. There are some cloaks made from velvet, but this is to show off your status and wealth. 
  • Purpose – To protect the wearer from the elements that they are faced with by the weather.
  • Hood – A hood is normally seen on a cloak, as another way to help the wearer face the weather and keep them safe.
  • Sleeves – A cloak is sleeveless, however in some designs there may be slits for the wearer to put their arms through. 
  • Length – It can vary from make of cloak, but generally a cloak will reach your knee or to the floor. 
  • Wearer – Today, a lot of cosplayers will be seen wearing a cloak. They are also a common sight in a lot of fantasy films and TV shows. 


  • Area Of Body – Capes cover a smaller area of the body, only the arms and back.
  • Fastening – Like a cloak, a cape is fastened around the neck with a kind of tie to keep it in place.
  • Material – Wool, velvet, silk, and fur. 
  • Purpose – A fashion statement. 
  • Hood – This can differ on the style of the cape, however if there is a hood, it isn’t for a practical purpose. A hood has more of a decorative purpose. 
  • Sleeves – A cape is sleeveless. 
  • Length – Smaller than a cloak. However, it will fall to your hip. 
  • Wearer – Capes can be seen worn by ladies who are wearing evening wear. Even some military dress has capes as part of their uniform. Also, obviously some of your favorite superheroes can be seen wearing a cape as well. 

About Cloaks

About Cloaks

As we have established, a cloak is a whole body garment that has been designed to be worn in wet and cold weather conditions. A cloak is wrapped across your body and pulled tight to keep all of your body heat inside.

As a result, a lot of cloaks can be quite heavy due to being made from heavy fabrics that have perfect insulating properties. 

In addition, a cloak can be made from any type of fabric, including velvet. Some people prefer to wear a cloak because it’s easier to move around in.

Also, a cloak is less likely to get caught up in things when walking. 

History Of The Cloak

The first time a cloak was created was during the Middle Ages. In those days, people would wear a cloak to keep warm.

During the Middle Ages, everyone had a cloak, as it was the go-to garment for everyone when they were out and about. 

During the renaissance era, the cloak became very fashionable. People started using the cloak as an item of clothing instead of just keeping warm. In fact, the cloak was so popular that it became a symbol of power.

Depending on what your cloak was made from could show your status and wealth to other people. For example, royalty would wear cloaks that were made from the finest of materials, such as velvet.

They also were highly decorated, this was a status of the power that they had. Whilst commoners would have been seen wearing plain wool cloaks, that could face the weather and dirt better. 

Today, the cloak is still very popular. It is often seen in movies and television, and in historical re-enactments.

For everyday use, it isn’t a very popular garment to be seen wearing now. It has fallen out of fashion and only really seen periodical reenactments and film/TV.

Cloak In Film/TV

As we have said, it is far more common to see cloaks in film and TV. Some of the most noticeable franchises you will see a cloak being worn is Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

Everyone who has watched Lord of the Rings, everyone will notice Hobbits from the shire running around with their long cloaks that keep them warm while on their journey.

The reason you see them so much in film and TV, is because for those medieval periods, a cloak is a lot more practical. They are the most functional garment. 

About Capes

About Capes

Compared to a cloak, the cape is more of a fashion statement and fashion accessory. A cape is a smaller garment that is tied around the neck and falls just beyond on the back.

The main aim of a cloak is to cover the back, and so they may not always cover the front of the wearer. As a result, the cape is ideal for covering up your arms, which makes a great fashion statement. 

History Of The Cape

A cape is a very old style of garment. It was originally used by knights to protect themselves from the rain or snow.

This is why it is called a “cape”. However, over time, the cape has evolved into many styles. 

One of the most famous capes is the ones worn by pirates. These capes are usually made from velvety material, and have a few buttons. They are designed to look like a pirate hat, but without the brim. 

Capes have been around since the medieval period. They were quite popular until the 19th century, then they fell out of favor again.

During the medieval times, a cape was seen as a symbol of importance and wealth. If you wore one, you were showing off your status.

In modern day society, a cape is not as popular as it once was. There is not as much demand for them as there was before.

Most people don’t want to wear something that is too flashy. They prefer to dress in a way that is comfortable and easy to move around in. 

Capes In Film And TV

Capes aren’t a common sight in everyday life. You will see them a lot more in film and TV. The first thought anyone thinks of when they think of a cape is superheroes.

A lot of superheroes will have a cape as part of their costume. They also look amazing in action shots, as the wind flies through it.

 Batman and Superman, are two well known characters that are seen wearing a cape. Even Wonder Woman is now to be seen wearing a cape as well. 

Difference Between Capes And Cloaks

You may have not realized how similar a cloak and a cape are. Over the years, the two have become confused for each other.

Yet, back when these two garments were at the height of their popularity, the differences between them would have been a lot more noticeable. 

Both the cloak and the cape have their own pros and cons. They both are more suited to particular situations. 


They are both sleeveless garments that are typically worn outside, to protect the wearer from the elements. Yet it has to be said that the cloak does a better job of this than the cape.

This is due to the cloak being longer and made from thicker materials that do a better job keeping the warmth inside and keeping the harsh cold weather out. 

While the cape is just a style choice, it can slightly keep you warm, but not to the same degree as a cloak can.

The cape will give you a much softer and more feminine silhouette, which is why it is a popular choice to be worn over the top of evening wear to add a sense of mystery and spectacle to your outfit. 


A cloak will completely cover your body, while a cape will only cover part of your body. 

It is easy, due to the length of a cloak, for a cloak to get in your way. This is because it is so long, it is very easy to get in your way as you are walking.

As a result, this is another reason why people may choose to wear a cape over a cloak. 

Now you know why superheroes go with a cape instead of cloak. This is because a cape won’t get in the way of a quick getaway from a battle.

Even if you aren’t a superhero, a cape suits the modern wardrobe a lot more. This is because the cape stops around your hips, which makes it a lot easier to wear while driving.

Even though a cloak may keep you a lot warmer, they don’t suit the more modern and on the go style. 


Both cloaks and capes don’t have sleeves, and they can both have a hood. This does depend on the design of the cloak and cape.

Although, for a cape, the hood is much more for a style, then for a practical purpose. While on a cloak, the hood serves more of a purpose. 

When it comes to sleeves, you will notice that both of these garments tend to be sleeveless. Thus, they are the ideal garment if you don’t like anything around your arms.

They give you a lot more freedom of movement as you can tuck your arms in and stay warm. 

However, in some cloaks there will be splits where you can put your arms through.

This makes completing tasks in your cloak easier, as you can stay warm and use your arms at the same time. However, not all cloak designs have this feature. 


You may have wondered what are the price differences between a cloak or cape. When searching, you may notice that capes are slightly cheaper than a cloak.

This is mainly due to the fact that you get a lot more fabric with a cloak than you do with a cape.

However, capes may be smaller, but they are made with materials which are cheaper as well, which helps drop the price as well.

As a result, as cloaks can be made from either heavy wool or luxurious velvet, this is what increases the value as well.

The heavier the fabric that the lock is made out of, the more expensive the product will be as well. You can purchase cloaks made from cheaper materials such as polyester fleece. 

Although, as the majority of cloaks want historical accuracy, then the cloaks that they are searching for will use wool. Yet for accuracy they are willing to spend the extra money. 

Cloaks And Capes In The Modern Day

Cloaks and capes are still worn today by various different people.

However, they just aren’t seen in everyday use anymore, due to the creation of other garments such as coats and jackets that have replaced the purpose that a cape or cloak provided.

As a result, you are more likely to see someone today wearing a cloak or cape if they are part of a historical re-enactment. 

Alongside that, cosplayers will wear a cloak or cape depending on their favorite character that they are dressing up as.

Period dramas like Game of Thrones is another TV series where you will see the cloak or cape being worn. 

Cloaks and capes have been coming in and out of fashion. In the 1920s and 1930s, capes became extremely popular once again, and this was due to movie stars wearing them to and from parties.

This became the norm for formal clothing when going to a grand event, that you wanted to finish off your outfit with perfectly. 

In the modern day, their popularity is very hit or miss. There are newer versions of the cape, but mostly like the cloak they aren’t as wanted as they once were. 

Wearing A Cape Or Cloak Today

You may like the idea of wearing a cape or cloak today, and there is no reason why you can’t wear one as part of your everyday look. If you like to stand out, then wear what you like. 

However, if you don’t want people to look at you, then you may find it uncomfortable to wear a cape or cloak in public.

This is mainly because they are such a rare sight now and associated with film/TV, cosplay and historical re-enactments, that seeing someone wear one in everyday society is strange. 

It is no longer the norm to go out wearing a cape or a cloak. If you want it, then people may think you are going against  modern fashion.

However, if this doesn’t bother you, then there is no reason why you can’t go out wearing your favorite cloak or cape. 

As long as you don’t listen to what other people say, then there is nothing to worry about. 

We cannot deny people may look, but as long as you are comfortable and confident, there is nothing wrong in wearing a cape or cloak today.

Especially as trends come and go so quickly. You never know, the cape or cloak may come back into fashion once more. 

Wearing a cape or cloak today may be a scary thought, but you could be the reason that they come back into trend again. 

The Mantle

We have looked into cloaks and capes, but there is another garment that we need to look at, which is very similar to the cape and cloak as well. The mantle is also called a mantle cloak or mantle cape.

It is a type of garment that covers the entire body, except for the head and hands. They are usually made of velvet, silk, satin, or fur. 

The mantle has been used since ancient times, and it is believed that it originated in Persia. During the Middle Ages, the mantle was often worn by knights and noblemen.

It was also worn by popes during the Renaissance period. 

Mantles and capes are similar, however, they differ in a few ways. The main difference between the two is that the mantle is not only worn over the upper body, but it extends down to the feet.

The mantle is typically worn on top of a coat, jacket, or dress.

As a result, you could easily get confused between a cloak, cape, and mantle. These are all very similar garments that you could easily confuse for each other.

Which one you want to wear depends on the purpose of wearing it and the kind of image you want to portray to other people. 

For a fashion moment, go with a cape. However, if you are looking for something more ceremonial, then a mantle is the way to go.

Although, if you want something to protect you from the weather and everyday wear, then a cloak may be more suitable for you. 

Final Thoughts

Now you should know the key differences between a cape and a cloak. Hence, you can now choose between the two much easier, and you may discover which one is better suited for your project. 

The world may have fallen out of love with these garments, and they become popular once again.

However, for now you can live your true cape or cloak fantasy through historical reenactments and film and TV. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Is A Cloak With A Cape Known As?

You may come across a garment that looks like a long cloak without a hood, which also has a cape on the  top of it. This is known as an Ulster. It was mainly seen during the Victorian era in the UK.

Traditionally, it was known to be a daytime overcoat. The cloak it felt reaches your feet, and there are sleeves that allow for easy movement.

The cape element only reaches the elbows of the wearer, for once again easy movement, while out working in the cold weather. 

What Is The Difference Between A Poncho And A Cape?

It is easy to think that a poncho and a cape are the same thing. Yet there is one small difference that really sets these two garments apart.

They are both small garments that will only reach no further than your hips, but some may stop at your elbows for easy movement for your arms. 

Both a poncho and a cape have no sleeves, but a poncho has an opening where you place your head.

Whereas you tie a cape to secure it around your neck, with a poncho no fastening is required.

As a result, the difference between a poncho and a cape is that a poncho is placed over your head, and you put a cape over your shoulder. 

Is A Cloak Warmer Than A Jacket?

In this modern age, instead of wearing a cloak or a cape, we will wear a jacket or a coat instead.

This is one of the reasons why cloaks aren’t as popular anymore, because you can have sleeves in a coat or jacket which you don’t have in a cloak.

As a result, it is easy to complete tasks with sleeves.

However, you may wonder which will keep you warmer. Some studies have been conducted, and it has been discovered that a cloak may keep you warmer than a coat or jacket.

This is due to the thick materials that make up a cloak. Wool is known to be a great insulator and will keep you warmer than a lot of other materials that make up coats and jackets.

Thus, a cloak will keep you warmer than a jacket or coat, but they can be less practical. 

Amanda Brown

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