20th Century, What I wear

The Capelet of Yay

I’m teaching a course on making the 1930s capelet that Elise gave me at Made Marion starting this Friday (are you signed up?), so of course I’ve been making prototypes of the capelet to make sure that I’ve got every possible bug figured out in different kinds of fabric.

And oh my gosh, and I so excited.  I love this capelet.

The first version I made (shown here) is in silk velvet lined in silk twill – the trickiest, most evilest combination possible.  And even so, it whips up so easily and beautifully.

And it’s so versatile!  I wear it loose and stole-y, or tied in a bow in front.

In can also be wrapped around the neck and hooked, forming a very elegant scarf – perfect over a coat in winter, or for dressing up the ubiquitous (and, lets face it – just a little boring) merino tops of NZ winter wear.

The elegant part:

The gathered cape back.  It just looks so beautiful on, and so beautiful in movement and lifts the cape from a simple drape into a clever, cunning, sophisticated garment.  I love it!

The cape does other stuff too.  It hooks in back so that you can wear it as a front wrap (when I make it in jersey I’m going to make it tie-able)

So yeah, basically it’s just awesome.

And if you are in Wellington you can learn to make it right away, and if you aren’t in Wellington I’m working on getting a pattern up and available!

All of these photos were taken by the fabulous Mrs C at Made on Marion, where I’m teaching the class (and also beginning sewing and the tap pants class – aren’t the tap pants adorable?) and so much other fun stuff.  The cape is on display there at the moment, so I can’t wear it every single minute of the day right now.  Boo.

But I do have the other prototypes to wear and cuddle up in!  I’ll show you those soon.  And a few more detail and construction pictures of this capelet (so you can drool over the gold velvet as much as every other person has).

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 2m of silk-rayon velvet in golden yellow for the outer, 1.5 m of silk twill for the lining (wider width = less fabric).

Pattern: Self-drafted based on the late 1930s cape-stole

Year: Late 1930s

Notions: None

Hours: 6.  Silk velvet takes a lot of basting!

Will you make this again? Yes! This cape only gets better – it can be worn in so many ways, goes from formal evening to super casual (I’m going to make it up in jersey!) and I love it.

Any changes? Nope.  It’s just perfect.  Though I am working on alternative versions.

Total cost:  Somewhere around NZ$45 (US$35ish). The silk velvet was very pricey, so was the silk twill lining.

And the inside?: Well, it’s completely bag lined and technically reversible – so you can’t get any more perfect!


  1. Laura says

    Where do you manage to find fabrics at those prices? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen silk velvet regularly priced at less than 35USD/meter, much less 2 + 1.5 of silk twill for that price. Is this at places local to you?

    (Also I love the cape, but I want to know about that!)

    • globalfabrics.co.nzarthurtoyefabrics.co.nzglobalfabrics.co.nzarthurtoyefabrics.co.nz

      The silk velvet was $35 NZ a metre, but I bought it during a 50% off sale, and I had a voucher for a discount on the silk twill. Also because of the way the cape is cut out (terrible wastage, but at least it leaves you with big leftover chunks!) I have enough of the silk twill left to make a blouse, and enough of the velvet to put a big collar and cuffs on a coat or something similar, so I trimmed a tiny bit off the price for those.

      But I am lucky to have fabulous fabric stores locally (Fabric Warehouse, Global Fabrics, Arthur Toyes) that all do good sales, and carry really good fabrics.

  2. Just wow! The gathers at the back create such a lovely feel and the front parts (flaps? wingalings? floaty parts?) are so versatile. I need one of these for the upcoming winter. Well done!

    • Thank you! I call the things at the front lappets. It was the closest I could think of to a proper costume term that described them.

    • Elise says

      I vote for wingalings. Looks AMAZING in these colors. I hope there will be pictures of others’ creativity!

      • I hope so too! The class is over two weeks though, so there is a little wait. And I am so not ever calling those wingalings!

  3. Kate says

    lovely garment on a lovely young woman

  4. Looking forward to the pattern, I’ve got some blue silk velvet I bought many years ago for a dress but never made up, got some silk satin as well; no twill though. Btw, was it the collar that needs some interfacing? You said the waistband, but I think that might be a slip of the fingers.
    No hurry on the pattern for me though, got to make 5 pairs of school trackies first.

    • Ooops! Not just a slip of the fingers – a full on leftover from copying and pasting the Facts template from another post! There is no interfacing at all.

    • Thank you! I really must spend time figuring out how to get patterns online. I’d rather be sewing than doing tech stuff!

  5. So stylish! I love the gathered back. It would be great for formal wear, for concerts and suchlike. I’ll have to keep an eye out for black silk-blend fabrics…

    • Thank you! It works beautifully in slightly stiffer velvets too. I’ve also made it up in a cotton plush and it’s just dreamy.

  6. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    Lovely! It looks so soft. I also have an old cape which I would like to make a copy of, it might be edwardian, but I’m no expert. How do you take a pattern from an old garment? I’m guessing that Janet Arnold didn’t pick them apart or damage them in any way. The museum curators would murder her, so how did she do it?

    • You make copies by very carefully measuring and spreading and checking the grainlines to calculate curves and gathers. It’s tricky and takes a lot of time, but is totally do-able. Some garments are much easier than others (this one was surprisingly tricky).

  7. Zach says

    I LOVE velvet. It’s one of my all time favorites. I just hate messing with it. I tried once and everything went to Hades. You, however, do wonderful work! Gold is also one of my favorite things (and as far as the rest of the capelet goes, how could anything silk not be, either?).

    Wonderful job!!!

    • Thank you! The trick with velvet like this is to baste EVERYTHING by hand. It’s a pain, but way less of a pain than anything else. I will admit this was the worst velvet I’ve ever worked with – Suson’s jacket and the Laurel Dress & the Luna moth gown were so much easier!

  8. Definitely YAY! It looks so lovely! I love how many ways you can style it, and I am a big fan of the colors you chose! Well done, I say 🙂

  9. eina says

    Ohhhhhh, this is just what I wanted 2 months ago for a versatile travelling wardrobe. Please do a pattern!

  10. Wait a minute, why haven’t I commented on this? I can’t wait for the pattern… Please, please… It’s just the thing to do with some of the black horse knits in my stash!

  11. Natalie says

    How did I miss this post?! I love this! I can’t wait for the pattern 🙂

  12. Carmel says

    This capelet is exactly what I have been looking for!!! I have some vintage velvet that I would love to make into a capelet. Is there anyway I could get a copy of the pattern?

  13. lindsey says

    Oh man, this is a lovely caplet! I love the colors. The blue really pops the coloring but in a good way. I love the versatility of this particular pattern!

  14. Hi Leimomi,
    Did you get a pattern made for the capelet?
    I’d pay just about anything to have it. Humm, that’s probably a dangerous statement…..

    • I did get a pattern made but I will never be selling it, but so many people struggled with putting it together. It takes serious fabric wrangling skills because of the way the grainlines change around the shape of it. If you’re still game I’m sure I could get a copy to you!

      • I would love the pattern for this as well. It is such a lovely garment. I can think of so many places I would like to wear it. Ands the idea of making the lappets long enough to tie in a jersey knit would be so much fun. I promise to not be angry with the grain lines or the wasted fabric

      • If you don’t mind sharing the pattern you made for the capelet with an absolute stranger, I would also be very interested in trying to make one! It flows so beautifully and looks so versatile in the images you have here. (Very late to the party, sorry!)

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