Monday, August 11, 2014

The Tale of the Cape

Cape by my mother, patience and photo by my wife. (8/10/14)
Last fall my Advanced Placement Literature and Composition seniors and I read Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, followed up soon thereafter with a quick read of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Despite not reading the texts with my eleventh graders, who were studying Language and Composition, we did discuss some of the primary archetypes--the success of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies made for some common ground--as well as discussing some of the less literary aspects of the books, such as fashion.

Pack of patterns on sale
for $1 at Jo-Ann Fabrics!
In at least one eleventh grade class, I thought aloud about how cool it would be if wearing capes were common at our school. The type of cape was thinking of was not a "superhero cape" (though there was an idea I had for capes at sporting events but that is a different story), but rather a functional cape like those used in the fictional worlds of Middle Earth, or the George R. Martin's Songs of Fire and Ice series, or as written about in the Robin Hood books I read as a child. Of course there are historical analogs to those literary coats, particularly used during the civil War and the tweed capes of the Scottish Highlands.
Close-up on the collar tag :) (8/09/14)

It was around this time that my mother moved into her new apartment, and had some free time on (or at least I assumed she did). It then occurred to me that the woman who had made my brother's and my Halloween costumes when we were younger could maybe stitch something together. Presumptuous, aren't I?

After taking some old historical costume books out of the local public library and digging through the patterns files at Jo-Ann Fabrics, my mother purchased the pack of Simplicity "Misses', Men's and Teen's Cape, Tunic and Hat", patterns pictured to the upper left. Of the five patterns included in the packet, my mother used the D: Costume Cape and Hood. She did however make a few adaptations based on our conversations over what I wanted the end product to be.

The cape with hood up-close.
First, because I wanted the finished product to be as practical (usable?) as possible, my mother actually made two capes, one of the lighter green cloth and the other of a heavier brown. By combining them--the green becoming the lining and the brown the exterior layer--in an effort to make it thicker/stronger, the final product is also, in effect made it reversible. I'm not exactly sure what type of material was used as we purchased it from the remnants section.

Secondly, I requested a slightly larger and more expansive hood (see below as compared to that on the pattern cover above), in hopes of avoiding that "tight hoodie" look that comes with some poorly designed sweatshirts. Though I am not necessarily an "XL" sized person, my mother used the XL measurements on the pattern to assure it would be both big enough to combine and to allow for the larger hood. After the cape was initially completely and I tried it on, she made some notes to bring in the shoulders so that it would look less like I was wearing shoulder pads a la 1980's women's fashion.

I was very impressed (and very happy) with how well the cape and hood came out. My mother did a fantastic job putting the piece together. It is also much warmer than I had anticipated, a wonderful surprise. My intent is to occasionally wear the cape to school, and given its weight autumn looks to be the best season during which to wear it. Even my wife, who insists it's a costume and not to be worn in public, was very impressed with the quality, telling me that "your mother should sell these on the internet." Not to be dissuaded from establishing a new fashion trend, I've already planned to wear it to the premiere of the The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (a terrible title) in December, and, obviously) on Halloween, two places it will be accepted, as well as some less likely venues... perhaps my son's collegiate cross-country meets?

Hood up... not so bad-a** with a cheesy smile. (8/10/14)

A VERY macho shot with Black Beard the kitten and I. (8/10/14)

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