I speak frequently and with affection about my velvet opera cape. All academics are especially fond of playing dress-up: in formal situations we wear long black robes with silk cowls, oddly-shaped sleeves, and some seriously natty headgear. You may have thought I got my PhD because I have a deep and abiding love of Learning. This is true, but it was mainly about the special hat. Any academic who tells you these are merely the meaningless historical relics of scholastic ceremony is either lying to you or to themselves. We love shiny pleaty robey things. And we would totally carry wands around if we could get away with it. So it is only natural that a velvet opera cape would appeal to me on a deep, fundamental level.
I am not the only one who favors an opera cape: whilst watching “The Empty House” episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, I discovered that Colonel Sebastian Moran, widely known as the second most evil man in London, is also an opera cape devotee. Moran alas became foiled by his own sartorial choices when Holmes (played by the intrepid Jeremy Brett) used the chain of the cape to strangle him before going for the stolidly effective method of wrapping the cape over his head to blind him.
Yes, the cape is truly a double-edged sword (well, not literally, but you know what I mean.) It indicates a faultless devotion to true style, but it can be used against the wearer to devastating effect. For this reason, a policy of Constant Vigilance is recommended when wearing any opera cape.
It is also one of the many sadnesses of modern life that one is hardly ever compelled to wear an opera cape these days. The aforementioned Constant Vigilance also extends to seeking out opportunities for deploying the opera cape. Fortunately, one such opportunity recently crossed my path: I was invited to a black-tie dinner. Naturally I wore the cape with my customary regal bearing and only spent the absolute minimum amount of time stalking around flourishing it like an extremely giggly Bela Lugosi. (Not to the actual table, of course. They make you surrender your cape at the cloakroom. But there was, alas, an utter lack of astonishment on the part of the cloakroom attendants upon being presented with an actual cloak. The awe and wonder due to the opera cape was sadly not there.)
The best moment in fact came the following morning when it was, tragically, time to put the cape away. Before resigning it to a quiet corner of the closet I insisted on wearing the cape to breakfast over my pajamas. My long-suffering housemate took one look at me and sighed, “You look like an amateur door-to-door magician.”