The Differences Between Capes and Cloaks

In ancient times, cloaks and capes were worn as important styles of dress to indicate an individual's rank. Members of the higher classes as well as scholars wore these clothes to represent their status. Capes were more common for women while cloaks were more often worn by men. These clothes were symbols used by the elite classes to alert lower classes of the presence of noble ranking individuals. Cloaks and capes are both considered common types of outerwear even today, but the two are often confused for one another because of how similar they are. In reality, the two styles of clothing have many differences. The main difference between the two styles is the design of each type as well as the purpose for which one is worn. Traditionally, capes are now worn as a form of fashion while cloaks are worn to protect the user from the elements.


A cloak is a long garment that can sometimes run all the way down to the ground, but shorter styles still tend to reach to at least the calf. The cloak will usually completely cover the attire underneath, and it is made without separate sleeves. Some styles may have openings for one's arms to allow better movement. In the past, cloaks were used to provide warmth and act as a shield from rain, snow and cold wind much like a coat. These styles often had hoods and were fastened at the neck. The cloak in modern times (often referred to as a “gown” in traditional settings) is used in academic and judiciary settings to provide a more distinguished look and to represent one's role or accomplishment. Cloaks are often used to complete costumes as a form of dress-up or “cosplay” for those that take part in role-playing events that involve characters from fantasy or history genres.


Compared to cloaks, capes are usually worn for fashion instead of function. They can be thought of as shorter versions of cloaks, and they don't usually feature a hood. Capes do not feature sleeves, and many types are directed toward the wearer's back. Some capes do come around the front and shoulders, though. The cape remains placed on the torso and is fastened around the neck. It is similar to a poncho, but the method in which they are taken off the body is different. Ponchos are taken off like a pullover while capes are taken off by unfastening the area around the neck. Capes can sometimes be long as well, but these are the styles most commonly donned by fictional superheroes.

Main Differences: Overview

custom superhero cape


  • Cloaks: They are often worn by academia, judges and as components of costumes. Cloaks are still sometimes worn to protect the wearer from the elements.
  • Capes: Worn usually as fashion apparel instead of functional attire

Part of the Body

  • Cloaks: A cloak will usually cover the majority of one's body from head to feet.
  • Capes: A cape usually only covers the back of the body, but they can also come around the shoulders to conceal a portion of the front of the body.


  • Cloaks: Cloaks are usually very long and cover the body from the head to the feet (in hooded versions). Common cloaks or gowns cover the area from the shoulders down.
  • Capes: Capes are usually shorter than cloaks covering down to the thighs, and some may go down to the ankles. Long capes are a typical feature of the suits of superhero characters.



  • Cloaks: Cloaks are sleeveless, but some may feature designated sleeves through which the arms are placed. 
  • Capes: Capes are sleeveless, and they don't require sleeves or arm slits because they are usually meant to be short and worn at the back.


  • Cloaks: Often feature hoods to serve their purpose of protecting the wearer from strong weather
  • Capes: These usually do not have hoods as cloaks often do.


  • Cloaks: Fastened at the neck with a rope or clip
  • Capes: Fastened at the neck (usually with string) to stay in place along the individual's torso

Extra Decorations

  • Cloaks: Cloaks are usually very simple in appearance, but some may be embellished when worn as costumes.
  • Capes: They can be decorated with beads or other adornments for enhanced appearance. This may be more common with designs that cover the front of the body as well.