Inverness Cape

AKA: Inverness Coat

How to say it: In-ver-ness Cape

Traditional Features: 

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  • cape style sleeves that are sewn into the armholes at the back and fasten at the front
  • single-breasted coat front underneath the cape which can be fastened separately
  • traditionally knee-length
  • casual version has a simple fall collar, while the formal version has a collar and short lapels


…of the style: The style comes from Scotland in the 19th century and began life as a full coat with a removable cape. In the 1870s the cape was split and sewn into the armholes so that there was no cape at the back, and in the 1880s the sleeves were removed completely and the armholes were lengthened to allow for greater arm movement.

The coat was most fashionable in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when the formal version (finer fabrics, collar with short lapels) was worn by gentlemen over a white tie evening outfit and the more casual version (hardier fabrics like tweed, simple fall collar) was favoured by men whose occupation required freedom of arm movement, such as coachmen and cab drivers.

While the Inverness cape has been adapted for women, it is not a super popular style and only makes an appearance on the catwalk every couple of years, depending on the trends.

…of the name: The coat is named for the city where it originated – Inverness, Scotland.

For a more in depth history of Houndstooth, try Wikipedia or get your hands on the Fairchilds Dictionary of Fashion.

Random Facts

  • The more famous wearers of the Inverness Cape include Sherlock Holmes (old school Sherlock, not so much the Benedict Cumberbatch or Robert Downey Jr versions) and Jon Pertwee who played the 3rd Doctor Who in the 1970s.
  • The Inverness Cape has been almost universally adopted by Highland Pipe Bands as a form of weather protection, as it allows for easy arm movement and means that the wearer can access their sporran without having to open their coat.

21st Century Inverness Capes

It was a struggle to find any true Inverness Capes currently available outside of costume dress. It seems modern fashion prefers either a cape OR a jacket/coat, not a combination of the two. These coats are the best approximations of the Inverness that I could find…

ann-demeulemeester-black-inverness-wrap-coat-product-1-158868-034868081_large_flex asos BCBGMaxAzaria vanessa-bruno-athe-sand-cotton-cape-jacket-product-1-13223732-769325492_large_flex

Top Row – Ann Demeulemeester, ASOS

Bottom Row – BCBGMaxAzaria, Vanessa Bruno


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