What is a Capelet? How to Wear Capelets, Capes, and Shawls

What is a Capelet? How to Wear Capelets, Capes, and Shawls

Everything You Need to Know About Capelets

A capelet has been a part of the fashion world for years, but what are they, and how are they worn? To help demystify this versatile fashion accessory, we've put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about capelets.

What is a Capelet?

A capelet is a garment that drapes over your upper body, covering just the shoulders and upper arms. Capelets are much shorter than typical garments used for outerwear, but due to their heavy materials, they still provide plenty of warmth. They can also be made with or without sleeves. Capelets can be worn in several different ways, from fashion accessories to practical coats that hold up against the outdoor elements. They can pair well with a dress and a turtleneck, allowing them to be easily adapted for formal settings or casual wardrobes.

The Difference Between a Capelet, a Cape, and a Shawl

Many people often confuse the difference between capelets, capes, and shawls. Capes are similar, except they're often completely sleeveless, draped over the shoulders, and fastened at the neck. This design can sometimes make you look frumpy, as many unstructured capes lack a flattering shape and are worn in a loose design. Capes can be made from a variety of fabrics, including silk, cashmere, wool, velvet, and more. They can also be worn by both men and women, typically for protection from outdoor elements. 

The History of This Fashionable Garment

In the 1890s, the cape got a little shorter, and the capelet was born. It became a fashion icon, born from the cloak and cape into a beautiful accessory that could complement any outfit. Collars were added, fabric in new colors was produced, and manufacturers experimented with luxurious designs—including beads, lace, satin, fringe, and even knitted embroidery. Eventually, the capelet evolved into a beautiful jacket that falls just above the waist. It was both functional and suitable for wear during the day or night. These historical women's fashion garments started to make bolder statements and have inspired many designs today. 

How to Style Capelets Today

There are several different options for wearing a capelet, from casual to fancy and everything in between. Most styling tips depend on your clothing underneath, but the following examples can give you a great starting point for ideas.

  • Mix Solids with Patterns — create visual interest by combining solid-colored undershirts with patterned capelets or vice versa. For instance, if you're wearing a plain dress or a monochromatic outfit, choose a capelet with an interesting pattern to add flair to your overall look. Conversely, if your base outfit is patterned, opt for a solid-colored capelet to balance the ensemble.
  • Drape a Capelet Over Your Shoulders — the classic way to wear a capelet is to drape it over your shoulders. This styling technique adds a touch of elegance and works well with a variety of outfits, from dresses to jumpsuits. Ensure that the capelet hangs evenly on both sides for a polished, stylish appearance.
  • Pair with Skinny Jeans or Leggings — for a chic and modern look, consider pairing your capelet with skinny jeans or leggings. This combination balances the flowy and often voluminous nature of capelets with slim-fitting bottoms, creating a well-proportioned and stylish silhouette. It makes for a great daytime outfit, as it's a bit lighter than wearing capelets with bulky clothing.
  • Try Sweater Capelets — for something a bit heavier, consider a sweater capelet. Sweater capelets provide a cozy and warm option, perfect for colder seasons. You can layer them over long-sleeved tops or dresses. They often come in various textures and knits, allowing you to experiment with different styles while staying comfortable and snug.
  • Avoid Wearing Capelets with Shoulder Pads — to maintain a contemporary and streamlined look, it may be advisable to avoid capelets with built-in shoulder pads. Excessive padding can create an overly structured appearance or flare out. Instead, opt for capelets with a more natural drape for a modern and sophisticated feel. However, shoulder pads can still be lovely, and if that's your style, go for it!
  • Use a Lace Capelet for an Accessory — finer lace capelets can be a delicate and feminine accessory but not usually very warm. Still, they add a touch of romance to your outfit and work well for semi-formal or dressier occasions like weddings. Layer a lace capelet over a simple dress or top to elevate your look with a hint of vintage-inspired charm.
  • Consider a Faux-Fur Capelet to Add Class — faux-fur capelets are a luxurious option that can instantly add a touch of class to any outfit. Whether paired with a cocktail dress for a formal event or draped over a blouse for a more casual outing, faux-fur capelets bring a sense of glamor and sophistication while providing a warmer option.

At Pretty Rugged, we carry some of the warmest capelets you'll find! Thanks to our innovative RuggedTex™ and SatinTex™ technology, all of our capelets are windproof and waterproof to keep you covered no matter the weather. We only use 100% faux fur and are committed to providing high-quality products that will last you for decades. We’re proud of our products born out of a simple idea in a very special place. Pretty Rugged carries a wide variety of products, including our original faux fur blankets, vests, capelets, scarves, totes, and more. Learn more about the Pretty Rugged story, or check out our available products today.