A cape is a type of clothing, and can be used to describe any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening about the neck. They were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic returns to fashion, for example in nineteenth century Europe. Roman Catholic clergy wear a type of cape known as a ferraiolo, which is worn for formal events outside of a liturgical context. The cope is a liturgical vestment in the form of a cape. Copes are often highly decorated with elaborate embroidery.
Capes remain in regular use as rain wear in various military units and police forces, for example in France and the United Kingdom. A gas cape was a voluminous military garment designed to give rain protection to someone wearing the bulky gas masks used in twentieth century wars. In modern times, comic superheros such as Superman and Batman are often depicted wearing capes.
In fashionwear, the word cape usually refers to a shorter garment and cloak to a full-length version of the different types of garment, and although the two are sometimes used synonymously for full-length coverings, the shortest versions are never referred to as cloaks. The fashion cape does not cover the front to any appreciable degree. In rainwear, a cape is usually a long and roomy protective garment worn to keep one dry in the rain.