At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Cape Poncho?

Susan Grindstaff
Susan Grindstaff

A cape styled poncho is generally used to describe a cape shaped like a poncho. They are styled so that the sides of the cape are shorter than the front and back. When lying flat, the shape of a cape poncho is somewhat like a very wide V. This type of cape is believed to have become popular during the late 1960s, during the era of hippie clothing and fashion. In more modern fashion terms, this type of clothing style has come to be referred to as “boho,” or bohemian.

As outerwear, a cape poncho can typically be made of any type of fabric, but is more often done in wools or crocheted knit. This may be because both of these construction methods take very well to fringing, and the cape poncho typically has fringe all along the hemline. The fringe is sometimes just an extension of the poncho fabric that has been raveled at the edges to create a fringed look. Another method that is used to create a fringed edge is using pre-made fringe and sewing it along the hemline. Not all cape ponchos have a fringed edge, but it seems to be intrinsic to the fashion.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

Generally, a cape poncho can be most any length, but they usually reach the thigh at their longest point. It is rare to see them made much below knee length, though shorter versions became popular during the early 2000s, when there was resurgence in the popularity of bohemian fashion. The shorter version of a cape poncho is generally more popular with young adults and teens.

One of the things that make the cape styled poncho different from a regular poncho is closure. Ponchos typically have only a head opening and no front closure. A cape poncho is typically open at the front and ties or buttons at the neck, with the front remaining open. Some styles are designed to button all the way up the front, but this is generally less common. In addition, cape ponchos usually have hoods, and traditional ponchos do not.

The big difference between the cape poncho and a traditional cape is that capes typically have slits in the sides used for hand and arm openings. The cape poncho normally does not have this component. The body of the fabric just falls over the arms. In this way, they could be considered very much like a shawl.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


No matter what the style or the material used, I think that ponchos and capes are very comfortable to wear.

What I like about them is that they can give you some extra warmth without feeling bulky and yet your arms and hands are free to move around.

They are perfect on cool days when you need something heavier to wear, but don't want to put on a bulky coat.

I find it interesting to see how the length and style of cape ponchos have changed through the years. Just like skirts and dresses, they can be long or short depending on what is in fashion at the time.


My friend has a hooded cape poncho that looks very Native American. It is made of light brown suede, and the fringe extends about four inches below the hem.

On the back, the image of a hawk in flight has been embossed into the leather. The hood has a small amount of what looks like rabbit fur around its edges.

He told me that he got it while on vacation in Arizona. He stopped at a store that sells things made by Native Americans. They made this cape poncho with warmth in mind, because few things are solely for decoration there. It’s attractive, but its main purpose is to insulate the body.


My beautiful dark red cape poncho reminds me of a blazer. It is made of the same thick fabric that lots of blazers are made of, and it has large black buttons that go down the length of the front.

I like to wear it over black shirts and sweaters. I have a black felt hat that goes with it so well, and it makes me look like I’m from another era.

This cape poncho is formal enough to wear to business meetings and stylish enough to wear to Christmas parties. The red color is very festive, and it keeps out the cold air extremely well.


@OeKc05 - I have a crocheted cape poncho with fringe, and I wash it by hand. I just don’t believe that it would last through more than a few washings, even on the gentle cycle.

When you give her the poncho, maybe you should tell her to hand wash it and ignore the label. If she wears it often, then it will go through plenty of stress. This could make the structure weak, and being sloshed around in a washing machine could destroy it.

Another thing you may want to tell her is that it’s best to lay it flat to dry. If you put it on a hanger, then gravity, combined with the weight of the wet material, can pull it out of shape.


I have a friend who loves ponchos and shawls, and the cape poncho is a combination of both. I saw one in a store, and I knew that I had to get it for her for Christmas.

It was knitted with white yarn, and it reminded me of a blanket my grandmother made. It had fringe along the edges that looked like it belonged there.

I was amazed at how vintage this cape poncho looked, because it was brand new. I knew she would wear it everywhere, and since it was white, it would go with anything.

I know that it has to be washed on the delicate cycle, but I’m just hoping that it won’t come apart in the washer. Does anyone else have a cape poncho like this? Does it stand up okay to your washer’s gentle cycle?

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman shopping
      Woman shopping