Capes are extremely practical things. They cover all forms of clothing, from tailoring to the bulkiest knitwear, without any fussing with sleeves or fit about the waist. They are highly versatile, as well as being warm and a great cover in the rain.
I was reminded of this when I finally tracked down a cape I came across in a Portuguese magazine almost two years ago. I had been shown the magazine by my Portuguese mother-in-law; in it photographer Jose Cabral described the recreation of a cape worn by Portuguese shepherds, and later favoured by local monks.
The Capote, as it is called, is made of three layers of a heavy wool known as Burel. This is a traditional fabric originating from Manteigas near Serra da Estrela in Portugal and only made in two factories in the country. It is densely woven and has a felted finish; today it is mostly used for throws, blankets and even home décor. The cape is also made in a variation called Surrobeco, which uses an even tighter weave.
Jose directed me to Beyond Fabric, the Tumblr blog and retail site run by Miguel Vieira. Miguel has recreated the Capote in four colours. It has a slimmer fit than the traditional garment, a little polyester to the Burel and a sheep’s wool collar rather than the traditional fox. The latter two make them more affordable and the cloth more resistant to rain.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get away with one. I tried the brown colour and while it is beautiful – and as I said, highly practical – it is just too unusual. If anyone out there is more of a peacock than me, however, I highly recommend the Capote.
Images: Menco Nieuwenhuis, buyer at Oger and author of La Couleur Blanche, wearing a Capote. Menco is also the illustrator of the great images on the Viola Milano site, whom I wrote about recently on The Rake. Small world.