The Cloak’s the Thing

First and foremost, my sincerest apologies for the title. I thought of it while I was partway through watching Hamlet (the Kenneth Branagh version, for those who might wonder), and I couldn’t help myself.

Backstory time! (I promise this is actually worth hearing about and will lead up to the actual topic.)

During the 2015 Christmas holidays, my family took a trip to Vietnam. While there, we spent several days in Hoi An, a city in Central Vietnam.

Map of Vietnam

Save for Ha Long Bay, Hoi An was the most beautiful (and, thus, my favorite) place we visited. It is sometimes referred to as the city of lanterns, and rightly so, for its nights are never dark, but shine bright, illuminated by thousands upon thousands of painted silk lanterns, hanging in vendors’ stalls all across the city.

Lanterns in Hoi An

But Hoi An is not only a city of lanterns. It’s also full to the brim of shops selling custom everything. You can enter a shop with as little as a description or a photo of an item, and a high-quality recreation can be in your hands in less than 24 hours. On top of everything, the items are ridiculously inexpensive. While in Hoi An, I had several items made. One was a shirt I generally describe as “my Loki top,” made of black silk with a dark green panel across the front, a square neckline, and an exceedingly cool stand-up collar (similar to an Elizabethan collar, but shorter). Another was a traditional ao dai.

Silver-white ao dai with traditional silver pants

(Yes, I’m well aware that’s a ridiculous pose.)

However, my favorite custom item was a cloak.

Yet another photo requisitioned by my mother

(I know, my expression is stupid in that picture too.)

It’s really a fairly simple construction, just a double-sided semicircle of cotton with a hood and a tie, but it doesn’t seem so because of the large amount of fabric required.

Now for the point!

I’m of the opinion that we should bring cloaks and capes back into style. Reasons include but are not limited to the following.

  • They serve multiple functions. Cloaks possess the best qualities of both the coat and the blanket, thus making them optimal for fall and winter travel, though those made of lighter material can be quite comfortable in spring and summer.
  • They cover the entire body. The issue with the coat is that, unless you happen to possess an unusually long one, it leaves your legs uninsulated. Cloaks have no such problem.
  • They aren’t difficult to make. Though the seams are long, there aren’t many of them, and the existing ones are quite simple. The construction of a cloak does not involve the laborious cutting of many different pieces, nor does it require one to sew sleeves onto a garment, which can be a very difficult process. A hooded cape requires three separate pieces of fabric – one for the the body and two for the hood. Simple.
  • They are exceedingly comfortable. If you’ve never worn a cloak, I highly recommend that you gain that experience. It’s quite wonderful.
  • They make everything feel magical. Perhaps the best of part of wearing a cloak is the every step looks and feels like magic. Again, if you haven’t ever walked in a cloak, I highly recommend it. The swish and flick (lol references) of a cloak as it moves with you looks and feels like absolute power. (Why do you think Professor Snape always wore them?) The way it billows in the wind feels like freedom. The way it hangs about you as you stand feels like luxury. And, best of all, the way it spills over your shoulders and down your back, the way the fabric falls on your skin, feels like home.

The amount of fabric required balances well against the simplicity of the construction, the comfort, the practicality, and the wonderful feel. I implore every person who reads this to truly consider the idea of the cloak as a timeless and universally accepted part of the modern world.