Do capes have any practical use as clothing or just decorative?

I was re-watching the movie “Star Wars: Rogue One” and for some reason kept noticing bad guy Orson Krennic had a cape that I could discern no reason for him to have. Of course Darth Vader also had a cape as did lots of others in Star Wars (e.g. the Imperial Guard). No reason I can see for those either other than it made them more cool.

But that is fiction…science fiction at that. Nevertheless capes are a real thing on our planet and gentlemen supposedly doffed their cape to spread across a puddle so a lady would not get her feet wet. Were they once a fashion thing? Did they have any practical purpose or just decorative? Even if they had a purpose were they good at that purpose? (E.G. They might keep rain off but you are better off with an umbrella or jacket for that.)

And no need to cite “The Incredibles”. I know.

I think it was to keep rain/dust/grime off of your clothes when walking outside.

Me and my older sister had them to wear to church over dresses. Our regular jackets and coats we wore to school were more casual and warmer. I hated it. But I hated going to church for a lot of reasons.
Back when Martha Stewart came out of jail she wore a knitted poncho thing, similar to a cape. They were back in style for about 5 minutes.
Men wore capes with tux’s to operas and toney events.
Seems like there was a military use for them during the civil war.

Capes or full-on cloaks can be quite warm, especially if you’re wearing a fur like Jon Snow.

Whether it’s the best or most convenient I can’t say, but a protective cape to keep your other clothes clean and dry certainly makes sense.

Do “real” capes have arm slits, or not?

I’m given to understand that when you’re riding a horse, you can drape the cape behind you and it traps some of the horse’s body heat to warm you.

My nephew went as a Dracula one cold Halloween and my sister said how surprisingly warm it was for him.

Well, you know, people have been wearing capes and cloaks for about as long as they’ve been people: there’s a good chance that a cloak was the first thing anybody wore. Capes have been worn continuously since prehistoric times, and they’ve been out of fashion for — less than one human lifetime. Over that time there have been hundreds, or possibly thousands of different styles: some practical, work-a-day items, and others fashion statements or symbols of status or rank.

I remember reading the memoirs of an ex-constable with London’s Metropolitan Police who was a little sad when their capes were replaced by overcoats in the 1960s: the cape was warm, and kept the rain off well; it was convenient to roll up and carry when not needed; and because it covered their arms, they could have an illicit hot meat pie or bacon sandwich (or even a bottle of beer) on a night foot patrol without being spotted.

It’s a bulky rain/dust/cold/wind protection that can fit over just about any kind of clothing, from Roman chainmail to trench gas gear to Lady Winslow’s three-tiered dress. Another advantage of capes over coats, heavy winter gear and suchlike for cops and soldiers is you can slip them off pretty fast when you need to move unencumbered. Or, you know, when the rain stops.

Fashionable capes had another practical use in swashbuckling days, circa the 16th-17th century : you could wrap them around your off hand to use as a makeshift targe and/or let it hang in front of you to hide the exact position of your weapon - hence the “cloak and dagger” idiom.

One other advantage of a cape that I’ve just thought about: It doesn’t crush your fancy dress while still affording protection from the elements. Hence its relatively recent association with going to the opera.

My wife still has the cape she wore as a nurse back in the 70s - Navy blue with a scarlet lining. The big advantage of a cape over a coat is that it was so easy to put on and take off; you don’t want to be wearing a heavy coat when driving a small car. It also kept the rain off her bag. It looked very smart too.

I suspect that capes and cloaks are also cheaper and easier to make than a relatively complicated coat or jacket. And, since they’re much more “one size fits all”, you don’t need to stock as large a variety of sizes, and if what you have is too big for comfort, it can be re-sized much easier as well.

You don’t knock off your top hat like if you were donning a poncho.

Possibly. Or, since ‘cloak and dagger’ refers to secrecy, espionage, assassins, and the like, the ‘cloak’ part of the idiom may refer to being hidden and the ‘dagger’ part may refer to killing stealthily.

Big drawback with capes- they get caught in doors very easily. Especially carriage, and now car, doors. I suspect that’s the main reason they suddenly went out of fashion.

And before indoor plumbing, capes help shed those things (from chamber pots) that fell from upper stories when walking down the street - and most of it was NOT from birds.

Capes and cloaks are different things–capes tend to be fashion rather than practicality, are usually shorter and narrower and seldom have a hood. Coats can have capes attached but you’ll never find a coat with a cloak sewn to it. A cape on a coat is fabulous for keeping rain off because it runs right off rather than soaking into your shoulders and back.

And cloaks are unbelievably useful–I have one that’s ankle length, made of heavy wool, lined and has a hood. I can literally lie down on the ground, pull the hood over my head and curl my feet up and it’s an instant sleeping bag. Much warmer than any coat I’ve ever owned because it’s six yards each of wool and lining fabric (a heavy cotton no wale corduroy.) It has also been used extensively as an extra blanket because spread out it will cover a queensize bed.

Downsides of a full cloak are weight, the hem getting wet from tall dewy grass and the like, open fire hazard and trying to cook without getting them into the fire/stove/pot.

I use something very like a cape or cloak when I am horseback riding in the rain. It has a hood and sleeves but is otherwise rather giant and shapeless if you are off the horse. On the horse though, it covers you, the saddle, your legs, and a good portion of your horse’s butt. It’s stupendous as equine rain gear.

The other great thing about riding in the rain is that the horse steps in the mud puddles, not you.

A good woolen cloak was a handy multipurpose garment in the Olden Days – you could roll up in it and sleep warmly. Or if you were in the Lord of the Rings and had one of those elven cloaks, you could hide under it and blend into the landscape.

I worecapesrather than coats for years, and still prefer them (though they are harder to find now). They are less bulky, and don’t get all bunched up when I sit down in the car. You get a lot more warmth for a much thinner bit of fabric. (Obviously, we’re not talking about Alaska-level cold here, just a fairly temperate East Coast Winter.)

When Celtling was little, they were my secret weapon. It was so easy to wrap it around her and help her feel comfortable and safe if we were at an outdoor event. She loved peeking out through the folds.

I wore a ruana in Spring and Autumn as well. A little more open, but again, plenty of fabric for a little one to wrap up in.

A character in the book and musical Wicked wore a cape to conceal the fact that she had no arms!

FDR had a thing for capes: