The purpose of all garments is to protect the body from the elements. Even though we may use them for symbolic purposes on occasion, their main intent remains. Cloaks are an excellent example of a protective garment, being one of the oldest forms of clothing to have been utilized in every imaginable way. While its primary purpose is to keep the body warm and dry, it holds numerous possibilities for designers and wearers alike.
Where do Cloaks Come From?
Essentially, cloaks have existed for about as long as human beings have been living on earth. It’s thought that they evolved from the use of blankets worn around the shoulders for warmth. The definition of a cloak is simply a sleeveless overgarment worn loosely over the shoulders. This is a pretty broad definition, implying that people everywhere have worn cloaks throughout all of human history.
Nearly every civilization on the planet has worn some form of this garment. The Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Native Americans and Mesopotamians have worn cloaks since antiquity. As universal as they were, these cloaks were not all alike. Every culture had its own unique shapes, styles and designs.
In the Northern Hemisphere, warmer fur cloaks were worn, while nearer to the Equator, cotton or linen cloaks were more common. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, the cloak was an essential garment for everyone, regardless of class, sex or occupation. Simple cloaks could be found everywhere, while wealthier people often wore decorative cloaks made from finer material.
Certainly, protective clothing is as necessary to life as physical nourishment to our bodies. However, cloaks remain a significant element in the world of modern fashion.
Cloaks for Dress and Fashion
Today, cloaks can be seen on popular TV shows like The Game of Thrones. Many people wear them during Halloween or other celebrations. In the 1500s, cloaks emerged as the predominant form of formalwear throughout western Europe. Fashionable cardinal or velvet cloaks were also quite popular in 18th century Britain.
Elegant cloaks have often been worn as fashion statements. However, they’re more likely to be worn for a practical purpose today.
Though the use of cloaks has declined in the last century, the fashion world would be bereft of an iconic style without these exquisite garments.