A cloak is a type of loose garment that is worn over indoor clothing and serves the same purpose as an overcoat—it protects the wearer from the cold, rain or wind for example, or it may form part of a fashionable outfit or uniform. Cloaks are as old as human history; there has nearly always been some form of long outer garment used to protect people from the weather. Over time cloaks have changed their look to match current styles and textile needs.
Cloaks generally fasten at the neck or over the shoulder, vary in length, from ankle all the way up to the hip, mid-calf being the normal length. They may have an attached hood, and may cover and fasten down the front, in which case they have holes or slits for the hands to pass through. However, cloaks are almost always sleeveless.
In full evening dress
in the Western countries, ladies
frequently use the cloak as a fashion statement
, or to protect the fine fabrics
of eveningwear from the elements, especially where a coat
would crush—or hide—the garment. Opera cloaks are made of quality materials such as wool or cashmere, velvet and satin.
Ladies may wear a long (over the shoulders or to ankles) cloak usually called a cape, or a full-length cloak. Gentlemen wear an ankle- or full-length cloak. Formal cloaks often have expensive, coloured linings and trimmings such as silk, satin, velvet and fur.
In literature and the arts
Cloaks are a staple garment in the fantasy
genre, due to the popularity of medieval
settings. They are also usually associated with witches
. Such cloaks are often magical
. For example, they may grant the person wearing it invisibility
as in the Harry Potter
series by J. K. Rowling
or the "jubba cloak" in Frank Herbert
's Dune. Alternatively, they may reflect magical projectiles
, as the "cloak of magic resistance" in NetHack
. In addition, the magical hide armor
made for himself from the skin of the Nemean Lion
, at the end of Hercules' first labor, might also be seen as an early idea of a magical cloak. This latter was notable because it was said to be impervious to all
cutting and impact weapons.
Figuratively, a cloak may be anything that disguises or conceals something. In many science fiction worlds such as Starcraft and Star Trek, there are cloaking devices, which provide a way to avoid detection.
Because they keep a person hidden, the phrase cloak and dagger has come to refer to espionage and secretive crimes: it suggests murder from hidden sources. "Cloak and dagger" stories are thus mystery, detective, and crime stories of this atmosphere.
In the Star Wars universe several Jedi wear cloaks usually in varying shades of brown, blue, or sometimes black, while the Sith prefer black.
Many superheroes, such as Batman and Superman, wear cloaks or capes as part of their costume.
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500-1914, Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-8109-6317-5
- Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09580-5
- Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965. No ISBN for this edition; ASIN B0006BMNFS
- Picken, Mary Brooks: The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-2)