Capes and Scarves: A Winter Accessory Extravaganza

Winter fashion for the majority gender (that’s what we are, let’s embrace it) finally seems to have reached an apex of equal parts cute and functional. For years, we have been forced to trifle with cute, yet mostly nonfunctional, winter things that often left extremities, necks and butt cheeks freezing. Finally, it seems as though a worthwhile variety of seasonal fashion accessories are being produced to keep us almost as warm as winter accessories designed for men.

Fashion seems to have developed this love affair with scarves. It’s a progressive and liberated love affair, because it seems like an accessory a lot of women are digging on right now, myself included. Who said polyamourous relationships weren’t mainstream?

I conducted an extremely unscientific poll, asking women what their favorite fashion accessories were. The overwhelming majority answered with something about their adoration for scarves. Alex shared her passion for scarves with an enthusiastic response of, “ALL OF THE SCARVES!”

Scarves are fairly inexpensive, which makes it incredibly easy for fashion junkies and match-a-holics to own a variety of scarves in different color and texture combinations. What is probably most important about scarves is how functional they are. A great set of scarves do similar things for a wardrobe as a healthy collection of jewelry, purses and shoes. The truth is that if a woman’s personal assortment of scarves is not going to earn her a spot on a Hoarders episode, she is probably able to wear the same dress multiple times without anyone noticing.

In many ways, functionality is often lost on our beloved scarf. Knit scarves offer a cozy warmth along with an acceptable level of cute. Some scarves sold as winter products just are not fit for winter

Scarf gender identity is slowly approaching fluidity.

consumption. That being said, in perusing the Old Navy website for scarves designed with gender in mind (I’m surprised there isn’t gender specific pizza, at this point), I was happy to discover that the “women’s” scarves actually appeared just as warm, if not warmer, than the, “men’s” scarves! I didn’t actually visit an Old Navy in the process because these days, visiting a mall causes my acute case of, “I’m broke as fuck, and I hate malls,” to flare up something fierce.

There is an interesting intersection between the popularity of scarves, hipsters and cultural appropriation, which deserves some level of investigation. Unfortunately, it is a level of investigation that my deadline and natural tendency to procrastinate cannot afford. What are your thoughts on hipsters, keffiyehs and so-called tribal prints?

Speaking of scarf intersections, I want to talk a little bit about those crazy Million-in-One scarf things. I have seen a couple of these things in action on fashionable women I appreciate and respect. At first, I was somewhat skeptical about how awesome and useful these infinity scarves are. I attribute this to the fact that I first encountered the concept of this accessory via a brief infomercial between sections of Adult Swim. I tend to trust nothing advertised after 1:00 a.m., particularly if I have the munchies when I see it.

So many options! Is it a scarf? Is it a baby sling? Is it a skirt?

Honestly, these things are pretty rad. Googling for women’s capes brought up an Etsy shop that specializes in showing the light to disbelieving, late-night snack lovers, like yours truly. The ways that a cloth tube can transform into a skirt, a hoodie, or even a cape is pretty amazing.

I guess some things seen after 1:00 a.m. are worth getting to know better before running judgment on them. Maybe I ought to dig some numbers out of old purses and start making some phone calls.

The reason I was Googling women’s capes is that a few weeks ago, I saw a post from the Anderson Cooper Backstage Tumblr featuring Nene Leakes, from Real Housewives of Atlanta. In this post, Anderson and Nene were examining some of the hottest fashion trends coming up for winter. There was admittedly a small amount of excited squealing in front of my keyboard when I read one of the winter trends explored by Anderson and Nene was the cape.

Back in the 1990s, there was a brief period of time when dusters were just as cool as having Courtney Cox’s haircut. I still have a couple that I can manage to squeeze into, just as cozy as a summer sausage, provided I leave the front buttons unfastened. A 1990s-style duster was generally just a very long, open sweater with one or more buttons on the front of it. Some styles even had hoods on them. These dusters were good for everything from keeping warm while looking damn stylish, to hiding period stains on light-colored pants. Those ’90s dusters were distant cousins to the super fly capes being trotted out now.

According to Wikipedia, a cape is:

[…] any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening around the neck.

"Dear Watson, I'm getting a text. Hand me my fingerless gloves."

Most of the capes being produced now look like something out of a stage production of Sherlock Holmes. That Victorian-style overcoat would look amazing with a pair of knee-high boots and dark skinny jeans. The idea of being able to wear a cape in everyday situations is also pretty appealing. It seems like something at least slightly eccentric, while simultaneously functional. Just imagine the adventures that could transpire with the knowledge that your jacket is actually a cape! Solving difficult mysteries like, “Where did I park my car,” have to be at least twice as exciting while wearing a cape.

In regards to fully functional winter accessories, some other favorites mentioned by the women who responded to the unscientific poll included a few other items. Boots had a small pep squad, most of whom proudly boasted that they owned enough pairs to potentially lose track of. Keeping feet warm in a cute pair of boots seems to still be a challenge for the majority gender. Some boots are still designed with little room for extra socks, but we could probably just buy the next size up to squeeze a tube sock into those cute boots.

Included in the bottom two favorites were a wise, and functional choice, convertible mittens. Winter with a smartphone sounds miserable without fingerless gloves or a pair of convertible mittens. The very last favorite mentioned was the trusted beanie, aka toboggan. Which is it? I just call them knit hats, but some folks get pretty serious about the toboggan vs. beanie debate.

What are your favorite winter clothing accessories? Are fashion designers producing enough warm stuff for women? What do you think of the return of the cape?

By Pam Newman

Black, intelligent and awesome are three adjectives Pam Newman uses to describe herself. Other adjectives that others use to describe her include: bold, compassionate, geeky and rockin'.

Pam has a tattoo that says, "Everything in life is done because of love or the lack there of." She later learned that thereof is a word, and regrets nothing.

22 replies on “Capes and Scarves: A Winter Accessory Extravaganza”

It is a tuque, not a beanie. Humph.

I also have to throw my vote behind scarves (I need more of them) and a cute pair of earmuffs. I find that my ears get cold but not the rest of my head; also, they don’t give you hat hair.

On the subject of boots ( since in my head, we are friends) I have the darndest time finding knee-high boots that fit around my apparently disproportionately-huge-for-my-shoe-size calves.

I love the idea of a cape, but I feel like they would make me look like a dumpling on legs. Also, the flaps look like it wouldn’t warm you effectively. I might be wrong though.


Snoods! I love my snood, especially after it ended up being used a blanket on a long train trip. So versatile and super comfortable. Scarves are, in general, wonderful. The keffiyehs though (i know them as shemaghs), i’d be interested to know what makes a keffiyeh a keffiyeh. Is it something in the pattern? Because they do appear, at least, to be simple squares of fabric.

I’d love to be able to have a pretty coat but i am slowly coming to accept that i have a Berghaus jacket with very good reasons. The kind of good reasons that make pretty coats run away and look for pretty-coat-thermals-and-waterproofing.

Okay, I had to google Snoods. I still don’t get it, really. The pictures on wikipeida make them look like hair nets. I’m confused on how it could double as a scarf.

I hear you about coats! Cute and functional still haven’t gotten to know each other on the coat front. All the scarves and mittens in the world aren’t going to make one bit of difference if I have a cute, shitty coat.

I have a pretty coat that I got on sale a few years ago. It’s warmer than the cute jacket I usually wear, which was advertised under the guise of being a coat. I need to accept the fact that I can’t just have a warm, regular-ass coat. Most women’s coats are either too short, too cute (read: Thin) or they are just long, fugly and warm. I have a feeling I’m going to end up with a long fugly coat, and just deal with the tragedy of not being extra cute in it.

How strange. There is a tiny mention of snoods (as i’ve come to know them):

A snood is historically a type of European female headgear, or in modern times a tubular neck scarf.

These are snoods. Mine is jersey fabric, about two metres in circumference and a metre wide but crumples down (i can’t think of a more technical phrase!) to the scarves in the link.

On the coat point, i just try to remind myself that my lovely Berghaus may not be cute but at i am at least warm and dry!

That too. Tuque, toque and this whole list from the wikipedia:

knit hat or knit cap, sock cap or stocking cap, watch cap, skull cap or skully, snow hat, snow cap, ski cap, tossle cap, woolly hat, chook or beanie.

You can also add bobble hat if it has a pom pom on top.

At some point it just makes me want to yell “It’s a $%^&*#$ HAT people!!!” but the world would be a lesser place without synonyms. :)

I want a cape so I can solve mysteries around the house.

I am a big fan of hats, but a big part of this is that I like to knit and crochet and I can make a new hat in a few hours when I get bored. My whole family has a number of hats that they promise me they really do like. I’ve also gotten into cowls this year. They are easy to make because it’s just a big fuzzy tube and they are like scarves you don’t have to tie that can also be worn as a hood if I somehow find myself hatless.

I wish I could solve the mystery of why I no longer have the patience to knit!

Knitting things that aren’t scares or potholders is beyond my expertise, and your ability to make a warm, cozy tube out of of yarn is incredibly impressive!

So, essentially then, a cowl is like a big ol’ turtleneck?

It’s not actually that impressive since I discovered circular knitting needles. They are attached with a thin cord and you just keep knitting in a spiral until you have the length you want. I have more patience knitting in the round because you never have to stop and flip, you just keep going and going and going. It gets very Zen.

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