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For better or for worse (mostly for worse, LOL), the last decade has been full of drama. And what's more dramatic than a … you know what I am going to say … cape?! The last 10 years have seen the resurgence of big-screen Star Wars in all its space-opera glory, plus the ascendance of the MCU (originally kicked off in '08) into the cultural behemoth it is today.
Nerd is mainstream, and with that comes a resurgence of the one article of clothing beloved by space wizards, LARPers, dungeon masters, superheroes, and bad bitch fashionistas alike: the cape.
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie striding down the rainbow road, sword unsheathed, wearing a bright blue cape turned at least a few Thor: Ragnarok watchers full-on bisexual. Yes, Doctor Strange’s cape technically has magic powers and thus technically might be cooler to some — but it never coaxed a baby gay out of the closet.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
It’s upsetting that the best shots we see of Thranduil's capes from the Hobbit trilogy are in the special features, not the films themselves. It’s not the most upsetting thing about the Hobbit movies… really, it’s not top ten… but allow me to be upset that we didn’t get a solid 15 minutes of Lee Pace as that dramatic bastard Thrandy doing a “Grandma, it’s me… ANASTASIA!” cape drop in The Desolation of Smaug. We deserved that for sitting through the rest of it.
The capes of the DCEU have up to this point been pretty unexceptional, and they’ll probably remain so until Harley Quinn throws half the stock of a Party City over her shoulders and calls it fashion. (It will be.) The standout is Aquaman, the first movie since Rocky IV where Dolph Lundgren plays a fish-man who rides a seahorse into battle wearing an iridescent cape shaped like a fishtail like he’s on en route to an underwater rave and he popped the E a bit too early.
Though largely absent from the cinematic scene now, director Tarsem Singh went through a period in the early- to mid-aughts where he was turning out visually stunning fantasy epics with reasonable regularity. Jennifer Lopez starred in The Cell, his feature debut, which was followed by cult classic The Fall and the Greek mythology-based Immortals. Immortals was followed by Snow White retelling Mirror Mirror, which had the misfortune of coming out around the same time as Snow White and the Huntsman. Snow White cleaned up at the box office. Mirror Mirror…. didn’t, and Singh’s career took a subsequent nose-dive. He popped up in 2015 at the helm of the little-seen Ryan Reynolds-led Self/less and directed a Wizard of Oz-based series for NBC that was canceled after one season. But enough about the bad. This cape! Lilly Collins could hide all seven dwarfs in this thing! With this gigantic yellow tent (but make it fashion), costume designer Eiko Ishioka played up the visual resemblance between Collins and Audrey Hepburn, who wore a similarly gigantic blue cape designed by Givenchy, in Funny Face.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Snow White and the Huntsman didn’t fall down on the cape front, either. You’re gonna have Charlize Theron gnawing on scenery left and right, you have to give her a wardrobe to match. Throughout Snow White and the Huntsman and its 2016 sequel, Theron’s Queen Ravenna is decked out in jewels, feathers, elaborate embroidery, scales… and, in one scene, what appears to be a metallic, becape’d caftan. It tinkles when she walks. It must weigh 25 pounds. It is definitely her laying-around-the-house-relaxing garment.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
There are no superheroes or wizards in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., unless you consider Henry Cavill’s chiseled jawline a superhero in its own right, which, spoiler alert, I do. Cavill ditched his Superman cape in U.N.C.L.E. in favor of three-piece suits, leaving Elizabeth Debicki to pick up the slack. Debicki, as the movie’s villainess, slinks across the screen wearing the hell out of a largely monochromatic wardrobe, including this streamlined ’60s cape coat.
The cold never bothered Elsa anyway, which is why she gets away with wearing a series of gauzy capes instead of an actual, factual coat in the middle of Scandinavia. In the short film Frozen Fever, a new element of Elsa’s ice powers are revealed: she can change her clothes’ colors at will, as she goes from an ice-blue cape to spring-inspired bright green for sister Anna’s birthday celebration. I wonder: Does that apply to hair, too? Are we going to see Elsa going through a Manic Panic punk-pop phase? One can only hope.
Before Kylo Ren came along, it was Imperial officer Orson Krennic pasting photos of Darth Vader in his diary alongside hearts, sparkles, and “DV + OK 4EVA.” (His Burn Book is all Tarkin.) The upwardly mobile weasel in the Empire’s ranks, Krennic was a shameless little brown-noser when it came to Vader, which might explain why he adopted a cape when most Imperial officers never did. Showy and not actually that smart of an item of clothing to wear, the cape is the perfect embodiment of Krennic’s personality. Vader to Krennic: "So adorable!…*turns to Tarkin* That is the ugliest effing cape I’ve ever seen."
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Thanks to the presence of Lando "Yes, I have a cape closet" Calrissian, Solo had a ton of capes, none better than the one worn by femme fatale Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). This cape did not come to play, though it did possibly come to steal the spotlight in your high school’s production of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Billy Porter is the closest thing we have to an actual, actual fashion superhero walking around on this planet, and the Met Gala is basically the Avengers: Endgame of the couture universe. Bunch of fancy people coming together into one place. Expensive. Colorful. Overstuffed and doesn't make a ton of sense if you stop to think about it. Anna Wintour is Thanos. Thus, Porter’s Pharaoh look at the 2019 Met Gala totally counts.