Tina, here.

I've been tossing on a poncho or a cape here and there this fall. Ponchos and capes are so classic, and yet on trend this season in a big way. And, prepare yourselves, this is one item in your closet that if you've had for ten years plus, is probably still good! Unlike your oversized leather and denim jackets which need to be tossed and updated, you likely have a good poncho or cape from the past that you can pull out and wear this season with great élan.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

I scored this vintage Ralph Lauren plaid cape this summer in Nashville. It was on sale because no one else wanted to look at a wool cape in 90 degree weather.

Let's look at some easy ways you can wear your ponchos or capes. (And if you're looking for one, there are some great styles in the October Style Vault, our members-only shopping and style guide.)

What is the difference between a cape and poncho?

A poncho is a rectangle and goes over your head. It has a hole for your head, and no other opening in the front.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

This is a poncho. You want to wear it on an angle so the point of the rectangle falls down to the side of your hips. That's so you're creating a bias line across your body rather than a horizontal line across your middle, which cuts you in half. (These amazingly comfortable low wedges are in the October Style Vault).

A cape wraps around your shoulders (think Batman and Superman) and is made out of a circle, that opens to the front. It may or may not have holes for your arms. Historically capes had hoods.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

This cape is technically a cloak with a shoulder cape, but we can call it a cape so people don't sneer.

How to Wear Ponchos and Capes

How To Wear Capes and Ponchos: Belted

I will often belt my capes to tame the gobs of fabric. If you do this, you need a wider belt rather than a skinny one. You can wear a cape over dresses, too. It's fine if it is shorter (or longer) than your dress.

How To Wear Capes and Ponchos

Here's my cape - it's huge. I'll probably wear it on a plane as my blanket and then use it as my coat. If I don't belt it, I just throw one side over my shoulder.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

Ponchos can be easier to wear than capes because you don't have to worry about what to do with the sides. Just plop it over your head, and you're done. But I do want you to remember to put the point at your hips, on the side, and not down the front.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

My navy cashmere poncho (remember, a poncho goes over your head, not around your shoulders) is perfect for a cold fall day before I'm ready to pull out my heavy coats. Wear a long necklace over your poncho for some added interest. (I featured this cashmere poncho in the Style Vault last spring and it was hugely popular; it's been re-introduced for fall, and I just added it to the October Style Notes. You'll also see where you can shop this jewelry.)

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

Here's that cape again, but I'm wearing it closed. You can see the Batman-style shoulder wrap here pretty well. I also want to point out that it's fine if your capes/ponchos/coats are a different length than your dresses and skirts.

How To Wear Capes and Ponchos: Length

Of course there's a caveat. Your cape or poncho should hit at least right below your hips, and can go as long as you want it to; just not any shorter.

How To Wear Capes and Ponchos

And how about a fur cape? Soooo luxurious. This one was a gift and I wore it for a season, then put it away for a season, and last year I wore it ALL the time and plan to this year, too. The right clothes have a long shelf life when you buy well (or have good friends).

How To Wear Capes and Ponchos

I love the look of a jacket or a cape worn slung over the shoulders. I just added a beautiful fur cape and a fur poncho to the October Style Vault, Style Notes. Both are on sale for half off.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

What if you don't have either a poncho or a cape? You can still get the look with an oversized shawl. Wear it like you would a pashmina, with one side longer down the front than the other, then drape it over the opposite shoulder.

How To Wear Ponchos and Capes

An oversized shawl is a great stand-in for a dressy wrap when you don't want to hide your outfit under a coat, or you don't have a cocktail topper. I just added an oversize shawl to the October Style Vault, Style Notes, that comes in camel, grey, black and other colors. Also on sale.

Not sure about your ponchos and capes? We can evaluate them when we clean out your closet, then we can shop with you and style all your pieces this fall. If you’re in the Nashville area, check out our amazing Nashville Wardrobe Consulting services, and don’t forget to join the Style Vault today to start shopping and saving. 

 The Style Vault…Your Subscription To Style

Thanks for reading and all the best,


I’m addicted to the vault!  I can’t get dressed without you!

~ another happy Style Vault insider

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Photos by Krissy Leigh Creative