Friday, March 28, 2014

Cape Town

One of the biggest trends slated to hit the streets next Fall is the cape. I had planned to wait until next Autumn to do this tutorial, but last week after tuning into NBC's "Today" show, I saw co-anchor, Tamron Hall wearing this very stylish garment outside on the (Rockefeller) Plaza. Clearly the designers in the US have jumped the gun and rushed to get the cape into the stores, this Spring.

Originally introduced in Medieval times, the 1960's and 70's saw a rise in the popular of this swashbuckling outerwear garment. By day, the "cloak" as it is sometimes called, was cut from wool and tossed over the shoulders of a "mod" mini-suit. By night, it was glamorous, cut from satin, brocade or some other luxury fabric, while lending its wearer an undeniable Jackie Kennedy moment.

As fabulous as this outer garment can be, it is incredibly simple to create. Moreover, it lends itself to numerous interpretations.

We use the basic bodice slopers as a base. It provides sense of proportion of the body as well as the anchor of the shoulders and neckline which can be left as it or given the addition of a collar.

Begin by tracing the neckline and shoulder from the front bodice. Measure out about 3/8-inch (1 cm) from the side and draw a vertical line. For a single breasted cape, I've extended the front 1/4-inch (7mm) from the Center Front. And, of course, the length is whatever you want it to be.
For the back you will trace along the Center Back line, up to the neckline, and then over the tip shoulder. Then take the front cape draft and flip it over so that the shoulder lines up with that of the back sloper and the CF line is straight. Trace the new silhouette of this new front cape onto the back. Afterwards, cut out the pattern pieces, then line them up together side seams together. Make any adjustments you have to so that the front and back line up along the side. My basic cape is short enough such that my girl can still hold her bag. You can, however, put in a buttonhole armhole on either side of the center front should your doll decide to poke out her arms. I've added a simple collar to this cape.

Add seam allowance. You will probably want to line this, edge to edge. Use a single hook and eye to close the cape under the throat.

Here is the same cape but cut from panne velvet and trimmed in faux fur at the neckline and hemline.

Another popular style is a cape that has a front panel belted at the waist while the back falls freely. This is a very simple variation of our basic cape pattern.

For mine, I've decided to flare out the sides on either side. Take the cape we just drafted and from the tip of the shoulder (consult your basic sloper for the exact point), swing out to the desired flare. At the midpoint on the shoulder, I draw a vertical line straight down to the hemline. Make a mark down from the shoulder which will indicate how far down you should sew. (I placed the pattern against the doll to figure out at what point the arms would comfortably swing out from under the cape.) Cut the pattern in two, then add seam allowance to each. The back is all in one piece, however the sides swing out the same angle as the front. I have extended the front by 1/4" from the Center Front line (plus seam allowance.) For this particularly model, I attached a long rectangular scarf to the neckline of my cape. Simply, wrap the waist with the belt of your choice.

You can add as much flare as you want. Just remember to keep it consistent. Whatever flare you add to one side, you must add the same to all sides. For a full, 3-Mousketeers cape I, took my cape, (using an old-fashioned compass to get the proper arc.

Place the point at the tip of the shoulder and swing out by 90-degrees.

You will also add swing to the center. Begin at the neckline CF point and swing out by 90-degrees.

The back cape pattern will have a center back seam. Swing out the side by 45 degrees. Then swing out the top of the CB by 45 degrees. Be sure to mark the CB with an arrow so that you will lay your pattern on the correct grain of the fabric.

The hood on the doll below is part of the dress underneath. However, feel free to add a hood to your cape.

Night at the Opera.

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P.S. Check out our video tutorials on creating the basic slopers. They are at the very end of the original post.


  1. Hi FDS, another extremely useful tutorial. I love capes, but as I'm too short I seldom wear them ....but the slender girls in the display case could use some!

    1. Thank you, Billa. These are so easy to make, I wonder why I hadn't done this project much earlier!

  2. Thank you for this tutorial, I'm going to try to make a cape for my American Model now, you explained every step very clearly.

    1. You are quite welcome. You may have to adjust the distance away from the side of the doll if she has more volume, which I think is the case for the American Model dolls. You want to make sure there is enough space for her arms at her side.

    2. Hi again, that's true, I will pay attention to that. Thanks! :-)

  3. Very interesting tutorial. Thank you.

    1. You are quite welcome. Glad you enjoyed this tutorial.


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