What do you think of when you hear the term “cape dress”? Do you even know exactly what this is?
A cape dress is a hand made dress with a cover called a cape over the body. It can be attached or separate. They frequently have a zipper up the center of the back. They hang well below the knee. Sleeves are at least to the elbows and often 3/4 or full long sleeves. Necklines are high and can be with out without a collar.
Old fashioned, conservative, fuddy-duddy, repressed, legalistic are terms some use to describe both the dresses and women who wear them. I would doubt if anyone who said these has ever worn one. If they would, they may change their minds. I did. After wearing them, I prefer comfortable and modest to describe them. While the fit will vary between pattern, the cape dresses and other modest dresses I have are the most comfortable clothes I own. In fact, I just ordered 6 more.
Cape dresses are most often associated with the conservative Christian denominations of Mennonite and Amish. Other Anabaptist groups such as Old German Baptist wear cape dresses as well. There are several differences between them however. The Amish dresses tend to be of a solid neutral color. The cape and apron are separate and worn over the top of the regular dress. Mennonite cape dresses often have prints on the fabric. The cape is attached and sewn on at the shoulders and waist. They usually don’t have an apron. I was once told by a Mennonite woman that she could tell generally what church others attended by the dress she wore. Usually women tend to make dresses from similar patterns, print size and type of others in their church or district since they frequently get their fabric from the same stores.
At first glance, most cape dresses seem alike. However, after spending 2 weeks in a conservative Mennonite community last summer, I was impressed with the tremendous variety of dresses the ladies wore. They were all conservative, long, mostly cape dresses or prairie dresses (long, modest dress without a cape). However neck shape, collars, sleeves, buttons, and pleats made each lady’s dress different.
Wearing a cape dress isn’t limited to these denominations only though. Many women like me have discovered the cape dress to be a comfortable way to dress modestly. Some Christian women wear them to be set apart from the world. They make a distinct statement that as a Christian you aren’t following worldly fashion.
It takes a bit of self-confidence (or perhaps total lack of) to so drastically change your clothing style when starting to wear long, modest dresses. Perhaps wear one just once in awhile then see how you like it. They aren’t only for adults either. My daughter loves her longer dresses. I think you will agree that a good fitting, modest dress is very comfortable. They need not be expensive. You can often get them online for less than $20 or custom made for between $30-$50.
If you can sew, you can save even more money; the fabric and notions aren’t expensive. There’s a set of Home Ec units available from Christian Light Education about sewing a cape dress to help you get started if you’ve never sewed a dress before. They include everything but the actual pattern and fabric. There are many places that sell modest dress patterns and fabric which would work for this (I have links to a few on my Web Links page).
For those of you who don’t sew, you can buy cape dresses on E-Bay. I have bought several this way, just type “mennonite dress” into the search box. They don’t have S-M-L type sizing but instead are listed with bust and waist measurements. This actually gives a better fit than traditional sizing. There are other sites that sell them custom made.
I recently switched churches to a more conservative church. The ladies there have been very complimentary of my dresses and encouraging me to sew my own. So this week, I bought the Ladies Simply Modest Dress pattern from Candle on the Hill. The #205 Contemporary Plain Dress from Friend’s Patterns is another good cape dress pattern.
Filed under: around the home, Church, random thoughts Tagged: | Amish, cape dress, Christian Light Education, Christianity, clothes, clothing, dress, e-bay, home school, Homeschool, Mennonite, modesty, plain dress, sewing