About Cloaks - Just Cloaks...

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About Cloaks


     Cloaks have been around for centuries. In it's undecorated state it was uncomplicated to make and a useful garment to keep warmth in and dirt out.

        Another name for cloak is mantle but this was generally referring to a man's cloak and today the name for a short cape-like version of the cloak.

        Cloaks started off being quite shapeless, in fact rather like a blanket thrown around the shoulders. Today, there are more likely to be fitted and are available with or without a lining. Cloaks can be of a solid colour or highly decorated.

        The name itself comes from the Latin 'cloca' although some would argue that it is taken from the ancient French word for the garment which is 'cloke'

In the early period cloaks were usually worn for practicality rather than fashion and from the mid 18th century it was the usual outdoor wear for country women and nearly all owned one, which was full length and hooded.

        In the 18th century a popular garment was a red cloak, this was known as a 'cardinal'. This was made of a close weave wool, which gave it some waterproof qualities. Whilst the younger women of this period experimented with variations of cloaks such as the three tiered version, the mature women preferred to stick with the 'cardinal'.

      Red was a traditional colour for wedding cloaks as the colour stood for virtue. The wealthier ladies would have silken cloaks in more elaborate styles.

      Cloaks are still in use today. They are worn in the armed forces and by Red Cross nurses.
They are popular too, with re-enactment groups and the Gothic and Pagan communities. Colours are often chosen according to their use in particular rituals.


     When Captain Cook landed on one of the Hawaiian Islands on January 26th 1779, he was met by the Chief who was wearing a feathered cloak and helmet.

     The garment was removed by the chief and placed around the shoulders of Captain Cook and the helmet upon his head. This great honour was bestowed upon him as they took him to be one of their gods, namely 'Loco'.

    The feathered cloak 'ahu' 'ula' was constructed from a base of olana fibres to which red and yellow feathers were attached. These were believed to be from the 'i'iwi and 'o birds.

    The members of Cooks expedition were so impressed with the strength of the cloaks that they brought about thirty back to England.

   The helmet was said to withstand blows delivered in battle and the cloak acted as a kind of Flak jacket.

   Because of its present delicate state, it was never to be worn again.

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