A child prodigy piano player turned glittering Vegas entertainer, flashy songbird Liberace would have been 96 today. Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as the flamboyant performer, introduced younger audiences to the King of Bling. Liberace was known for his outrageous stage shows, which featured everything from chorus girls and wild animals, to a Rolls-Royce and special effects. But Liberace was best known for his gaudy, sparkling, exotic costumes — including his capes. Today, we associate capes with superheroes, but pop culture has proven that cape-wearers are not limited to those with superhuman powers.
Elvis was the King of Capes — and the music icon wore his rhinestone best during the 1970s. The performer grew up in the projects of Memphis and always admired the flashy clothes he saw in shop windows. His fame eventually afforded him the ability to buy the most outlandish costumes, including his ‘70s-era jumpsuits and capes. Elvis’ most famous cape is the one he wore in the groundbreaking 1973 TV special Aloha from Hawaii (the first global concert satellite broadcast). At the end of the show, Elvis spread his cape open like wings to reveal a blinged out eagle on the back.
Sleeping Beauty villain Maleficent is evil, but elegant in her elaborate headdress and cape. Marc Davis, the chief animator of Sleeping Beauty, stated Maleficent was “designed like a giant vampire bat to create a feeling of menace,” and the cape nails the look.
Cinema has shown us many different versions of Dracula, adapted from Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel, but Lugosi’s sinister Count remains the fan favorite. Lugosi embodied the character so much that he was even buried in his famous cape.
The Third Doctor
The Third Doctor in the Doctor Who series, played by Jon Pertwee, was a dapper dandy — with a techno-savvy side and a penchant for danger — who wore velvet smoking jackets, ruffled shirts, riding boots, bow ties, and capes.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone describes gothy wiz Severus Snape as an “overgrown bat,” thanks to his dark robes and stately cape.
You can’t embody the dark side of the Force in the Star Wars universe without a cape to whip around while commanding your fleet.
Basil Rathbone became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s distinctive literary hero Sherlock Holmes (in an Inverness cape, with deerstalker and calabash pipe) in the 1939 film series.
The Phantom of the Opera
Lon Chaney, Sr. brought Gaston Leroux’s Phantom to life on the big screen in the famous 1925 silent film adaptation, in which Chaney devised his own makeup. Several sequences were originally captured in color, including a scene on the rooftop where the Phantom’s cape is red. Color was added via the Handschiegel process, which entails using stamps to hand-color the print.
Zorro’s heroic persona wouldn’t be the same without his Spanish cape, sombrero cordobés, mask, and rapier.
Daenerys Targaryen’s blue cape evokes the fashions of medieval Europe thanks to the addition of a hood. The shade of blue is fit for a royal who is ready to rule the Seven Kingdoms.