When it comes to the best-dressed shows of the television season, you could make a strong argument for several contenders. Jane the Virgin, Killing Eve, black-ish, The Bold Type, Riverdale — all these shows feature highly enviable fashion, but do you know what they don't feature enough of? CAPES.
Capes came back into fashion a few years ago, and now they're all over the runways and in everyday wear. And while some capes can be restricting, yes, nothing provides such an immediate boost of both glamour and drama as a well-tailored cape. This is in part because capes are entirely impractical nowadays. They will not keep you as warm as a coat, they can make the simple act of carrying a purse an unnecessarily difficult or even impossible task, and they won't even make you fly in real life. Capes are purely an aesthetic choice, and one that signifies the wearer is both stylish as hell and not one to get bogged down in the mundanities of life. In summation, they are pure Look.
Knowing this, it seems inevitable that the series that best embraced the art of the cape this TV season was American Horror Story, which prioritizes aesthetics as much as, and sometimes even more than, storytelling. In Apocalypse, the eighth season of the FX anthology, creator Ryan Murphy brought together characters from two of the series' most beloved installments, Coven and Murder House, to play out his version of the End of Days in which the witches of Miss Robichaux's must defeat the Antichrist Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) in order to save human and witch kind.
Witches have long been associated with capes, which is why it's probably not a coincidence that the rise of capes in real-life fashion occurred in tandem with the resurgence of witch culture. That's also why Murphy and costume designers Lou Eyrich and Paula Bradley seemingly took every opportunity in Apocalypse to pay homage to a witch's ultimate fashion accessory, starting right from the second the Coven women first reappeared on our screens. And thanks to a cape's inherent ability to turn any regular stride into a high-fashion, grand entrance strut, suddenly the anticipated return of the Coven witches in Apocalypse's third episode not only became one of the best dramatic moments of the season but also one of the most stunning visuals.
The sight of Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) leading the resurrected Madison (Emma Roberts) and Myrtle (Frances Conroy) through the fog to save their recently deceased sisters at the underground bunker left fans gagging not only because some of their all-time favorite American Horror Story characters were back, but because the women's capes, trailing behind them through the fog, milked every single moment of the trio's triumphant comeback.
The delicious visual of a group of women walking with purpose and ready to kick some Antichrist ass is one Apocalypse used to great effect throughout the season. When Cordelia and Myrtle later led Coco (Leslie Grossman), Violet (Taissa Farmiga), and Mallory (Billie Lourd) on another moonlit stroll — this time to resurrect a warlock ally rather than their witch sisters — the shot was once again a standout in a visually rich season.
But Apocalypse didn't just let the women have all the fun with capes. While the fashion piece is largely relegated to womenswear these days, historically capes were unisex, with both men and women taking full advantage of the instant melodrama they provide. And this is something Apocalypse did quite well, putting warlocks Ariel (Jon Jon Briones) and Behold Chablis (Billy Porter) in stunning capes that added to the impact of any shot they were in. The show even made sure the Antichrist got in on the cape action — although, in this outfit, it's really Michael's silver fastener that steals your eye.
Capes are all about grabbing attention. That's why it makes sense that, in Apocalypse, it's the most egotistical (Ariel, Michael) or boldly confident (Cordelia, Myrtle) characters who don them most often. In putting on a cape, the wearer is, on some level, declaring their own regality and importance to everyone else around. And yet Cordelia's cape of choice, a sleek velvet number with an engraved silver clasp, is rather understated for a fashion piece that so often screams "look at me, look at me." Ariel's capes, on the other hand, are often incredibly detailed and paired with several other eye-catching accessories. By comparing the capes of these two people — the leaders of their magical factions — Cordelia's courtly, understated power is wonderfully contrasted with Ariel's desperate need for validation, with his outfits practically begging you for attention.
If you want to dig deeper into what the capes of Apocalypse might symbolize, you could theorize that the fashion item takes center stage in the season because it embodies the concept of deception, with both Michael Langdon and Mallory hiding — or shall we say cloaking? — their true identities and desires from others for much of the season. Or maybe they decided to put so many characters in capes because of the item's history as a means of protection — not just from the elements, but in combat, with the wearer wrapping their cape around their non-sword-wielding arm to help shield it from blows. Apocalypse was a season all about the war between good and evil (and, on another level, men and women), and so it would make sense for the characters to take a cue from fashionable fighters.
Or maybe they just wanted to include capes because witches love capes and capes look cool. No matter the reason, we're happy they did it. Because OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THESE CAPES?!
The Best Capes in American Horror Story: Apocalypse
Because this is such a competitive category, TV Guide wanted to take this opportunity to shout-out all the runners-up who just barely missed out on the honor of Best Capes: Dynasty, which did Alexis Carrington proud with the show's opulent fashion; Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists, which delivered looks as good as (if not better than) the flagship series; and The Young and the Restless, which proved daytime soaps can still slay the fashion game.