How a cape or kimono jacket can lift a basic outfit

Nikki Parkinson Fashion, How to 76 Comments

Whenever I feature a cape or a kimono jacket here on the blog or Instagram, it seems that there are three camps you fall into when it comes to this garment type.

1. You’re already a card-carrying member of the kimono/cape camp.

2. You want to join in but haven’t found the right one for you.

3. You’re not a fan. At all.

I’m hoping that today’s post has something for all camps.

But first I’ll be up front with you. I love a cape or kimono and have quite a collection now, so I’m firmly in camp no.1.

Not all designs I’ve ever tried have suited me but those that I regularly reach for do and I love wearing them.

The cape or kimono jacket really comes into its own in autumn and spring I think. The temperatures are mild but it’s not too hot to add on another layer. In fact that light extra layer maybe just the thing for a slightly cooler night.

It’s this easy layering that makes this clothing piece a wardrobe winner.

Below I’m showing you the effect of adding just one piece – a kimono jacket or cape – to a basic jeans and tee outfit. It’s an exercise you can do at home in front of the mirror.

The basic outfit

How a cape or kimono jacket can change a basic outfit in one easy move: start with a basic outfit | Witchery tee layered over Country Road seamless tank | NYDJ Janice jeggings jeans | Tieks ballet flats

Witchery tee layered over Country Road seamless tank | NYDJ Janice legging jeans (I wear a US12) | Tieks ballet flats

There is nothing wrong with a basic outfit – it serves a purpose – but by adding just one extra piece in a pattern and/or colour, the whole outfit is lifted up a notch or six.

Add on a cape

How a cape or kimono jacket can change a basic outfit in one easy move | Blue Bungalow cape

Blue Bungalow cape* (I’m wearing a M)

Add on a kimono jacket

How a cape or kimono jacket can change a basic outfit in one easy move  | Blue Bungalow kimono Blue Bungalow kimono jacket* (I’m wearing a 14)

Add on a cape

How a cape or kimono jacket can change a basic outfit in one easy move | iAllure cape

iAllure cape* (this is a one size fits most)

Can you see what I’m talking about? It really is that simple – on a busy morning just throw on your favourite jeans (these ones are my faves by the way … ones that can you believe accidentally ended up in the Vinnies’ pile when we moved – a new pair made their way back into my wardrobe thanks to Zambezee Boutique – cannot believe I did that. I hope their new owner loves them as much as I do) and then throw on a cape.

The hardest part is finding the best capes for you. I have some tips that might help there.

Shopping tips

1. Fabric: look for designs that drape beautifully on you. You want them to easily fall down your chest without “boxing” you out.

2. Sizing: as these garments tend to be on the more voluminous side, do try down a size or two when deciding on what works for you. The garment is worn open so as long as you are comfortable across the shoulders it will work in a smaller size.

3. Want to show the most shape? Wear something streamlined underneath a sheer fabric. A longer cape over short shorts if your legs are up for it is a great way to dress up a shorts’ outfit too.

4.  Streamlined or not, make sure we can see what you’re wearing underneath. This is how we create the shape with the whole outfit.

5.  Don’t give up. Just because one style doesn’t suit, move on to the next and don’t look back. You will find one that is just right for you.

So tell me, which kimono jacket/cape camp do you fall into? Found any lately that you love? Share below in the comments. 

PS. Two more kimono styling examples for you: my blogging friend Vanessa at Style and Shenanigans has blogged about her Bohemian Traders kimono today. Remember when I featured mine here.

* These pieces were gifted to me for editorial consideration

  • cybele@blahblah

    You’ve just inspired me to dig out my kimono top. I used to wear it with a belt but I like the loose look you have x

  • Cath B

    I love this look but I’ve never tried it. Living in chilly Melbs I do love a waterfall cardi for winter though. Does this fit into nearly the same category?

  • I fall into the “LOVE THE KIMONO” group, but alas, haven’t found the right one for me. I’m almost convinced that I will just have to love them on other people. But still hoping…! (You look fabulous in them, by the way!) x

  • I don’t own one yet but I do love them – love how each outfit look so completely different just by switching out the jacket!

  • Shannon

    definitely Camp 1! Loving Frock me out’s Kimono tops and also just found a gem at the manly markets on the wkend by a label called Garage 16

  • Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I want a swing cape jacket for the Melbourne Winter this year, I am yet to see the one I want, but I love them all.

    • Oh yes you do! I bought one a few years ago on ASOS – camel coloured wool and was a steal.

  • TheLifeSheMade

    I like them a lot and I own about three now. I do find however that they can add a lot of bulk that isn’t there. I’m quite arm heavy and if I’m not careful they can make me look as big as a rugby player.

    I think the solution is to keep them floaty, size down as you say and keep everything else you wear rather fitted.

  • Samantha Keogh

    Sorry. Late posting. Thanks so much for this. I don’t feel the pure boho look suits me or my lifestyle but nice to know how I can incorporate some of this lovely style into my wardrobe if I want to. I think the structured kimono jacket would suit the suburban mum look at home and the iAllure cape on holiday. Cheers.

  • Ella Spurling

    I’m a camp 2 member, lusting after that orange cape! It’s gorgeous. Looks amazing on you. I can see a kimono joining my wardrobe in the near future!

  • A gorgeous cape or kimono jacket with jeans and a basic tee is exactly how I like to wear mine – its my nod to boho without stepping too far outside of my classic comfort comfort zone xx

  • love a kimono capey thingy – why dont i own one? worlds greatest mystery… online shopping now!

  • mary_j_j

    I saw a nifty scarf tying vid the other day that had how to turn a large scarf into a kimino-style jacket-y thing. Ace! Not that I’ve worn any of my scarves like that yet it was great to try out something new.

  • Cheekie

    I love love love this look. All three look great on you.
    My gorgeous black base with lovely orange and red cherry blossoms kimono/cape is from Estelle brand in Myer (thank you Mrs Woog) , I too got the smaller size and it feels and looks good, always looks nice on pics (ie slimming and smart!) I wear NYDJ slim jeams or black slim pants and a more fitted top. Agree with others major bonus to find your NYDJ pair in op shop!!!!
    On the cape/cashmere side, can I rec Eugenie Cahmere , $$$ but exquisite and timeless for cooler days and travelling on planes and for a bit of swoosh about you

    • Thanks for the cashmere recommendation – I’m all for investments like that!

  • Mindy Roestenburg

    I love the idea of them. Haven’t found one that I love that has suited me but I’m not ready to give up just yet.

  • Love, love, love them all! I have my very first cape now hanging in my wardrobe ready for its debut. I’m thinking this Friday for casual day at work!

  • The Plumbette

    Love all the outfits and the cape and kimono are perfect pieces for my maternity wardrobe. 🙂

  • I love how one piece can change your whole outfit – three times!! The Blue Bungalow cape is my favourite on you here. That colour really suits you.

  • I saw a great video recently on how to tie a big silk scarf or sarong as a kimono cape but I can’t find it. Such a good idea! Thank you so much for joining Wardrobe Wednesday!

  • You so could!

  • Nic

    I love all of the above on you Nikki, and on me too! I bought the gorgeous black on with the big flower on the back that you featured a while ago, and also a Country Road kimono, which is more formal and I find myself wearing to work a fair bit. The key is definitely to have something fitted underneath. Which could look terrible given my bumps, so the solution is to just not take off the kimono/cape! I also have a knitted version of the same idea – a light linen one, and another with a metallic thread from Metalicus. Absolutely invaluable in autumn! Kind of related too is the short kaftan, which I find myself wearing from autumn to spring, with either a camisole or long sleeved top underneath. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Oh I nearly bought the metallic thread cape!! Damn it.

      • That sounds like just the piece I’ve been looking out for!

        • Emma

          Yes that was my most recent purchase too. It really is gorgeous with enough metallic to give that luxe look. Think lurex without the scratchiness ;).

  • Emma

    Long time lover of all jackets – they really are the easiest way to lift a look. I have several kimonos and capes of different shapes, patterns (or plain), lengths and weights of fabric. I especially love those in my wardrobe which boldly add a bit of flamboyance and drama to an otherwise plain outfit. I think almost without exception I size down as having a good fit across the shoulders seems to deal with the potential to add bulk. I love all of the ones you have chosen – of course! I think my love of kimonos is an extension of my love for interesting sleeves, drawing the eye away from any areas I’d rather the eye not linger upon ;).

    • Flamboyance and drama … every outfit deserves a little of that, yes to you Emma!

  • Johanne Taylor

    I love them, too.

    If I could offer one more suggestion to those who feel boxed out (I do, sometimes) is as well as downsizing, to look for kimonos with a more slim/slightly fitted sleeve. This means there is less overall width at boob/upper arm level. Works for me!


    I find it makes me look too boxy, and need a nip in at the waist. I have a veronika maine kimono that I like but that’s about it.
    cilla xx

  • Great post Nikki. I was in camp #2 until recently when I found the gorgeous Bohemian Traders kimono. With my height and preference to cover lower regions, it is working a treat on all levels. I have another shorter one I bought earlier this summer but have still yet to find the right way to wear it. Thanks for the tips and styling inspo! And lastly, thank you for the link! xx

  • I really like kimonos but I find it hard to find pieces that don’t look too ‘bulky’ on me so I only own one. Perhaps I should try finding one with a sheer fabric so that it still gives me some shape. Thanks for the tip x

  • Cheekie

    Love kimonos, capes and kaftans. I have a gorgeous kimono jacket from Estelle – Myer plus size felt. Always makes me look snazzier. Teamed up with my NYDJ slim pants and black tank, effortless and all purpose. Love all the ones you feature and going to check links right now, thank you

  • Kelly

    I love a kimono/cape which I do find a bit strange as I am more a structured type of clothes wearer and not into the “hippy” (ie loose flowing) vibe at all. I have a couple – the black with pink flower one you have Nikki and a neutral colour one from Jeanswest. I may also by the end of the day have that orange one on its way to me too!

  • Karen L

    I have a kimono the same as the floral Blue Bungalow one, except it doesn’t have the border – I got it from Birdsnest. I adore the design but I’m a little worried that it ‘boxes me out’ a bit so I haven’t worn it yet. Yours looks so good on you though I think I’m going to give it another go! 🙂

  • GoddessMel

    I recently tried a beautiful kimono/cape hybrid from City Chic, but the length didn’t work on me. Instead I am now the proud owner of a butterfly print (on black) kimono jacket from Target that suits my height and shape – looks fab with my biker jeans and a plain black T or singlet. Am now on the lookout for
    something bright like the ones you’ve featured.

    • LOL Mel. Love your dress-up story. And love how you’ve found another that suits your shape!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    I love them they add that pop of style to an otherwise just okay outfit!
    I have 3. 2 recent purchases I have the verily one you have it is gorgeous on and a beaded one and a floral one but I do love the orange one it is beautiful.
    I can’t believe you accidentally threw away your NYDJ favourite jeans and I do hope the new owner appreciates them.You look stunning in all these capes and kimonos Nikki!

    • I know Lisa … didn’t realise until I went to find them a couple of weeks ago and the ones that should have gone to Vinnies were there, not the ones that I love and can’t live without!!

  • Petra

    I’m afraid I’m the same as Jill – brunch coats! My mum still wears them – it’s kind of like a “house dress/summer dressing gown”!!! However, in saying that, I really like the orange one on you Nikki!

    • I’m thankful that none of the women in my childhood ever wore them Petra!

  • Josie

    I was only looking at the Blue Bungalow Kimono jacket yesterday. You have sold me on it. They all look great on you.

  • Karla

    Oops, that’s meant to say I was worried it would add too much bulk to my short, curvy frame.

    • As for the orange one, I’m in a M size so down a size or two from my normal top.

  • Karla

    I’ve got an I-Allure one on its way to me!! I was also eyeing off that gorgeous orange one recently bulk to my short, curvy frame…

  • Sarah Watts

    Big fan and proud owner of 4 different styles, lengths and colours, love!

  • Erika

    I’ve a lovely silk kimono that is properly a dressing gown. Just snip the belt loops off…. And I’ve several lightweight wool shawls (rectangular), which are in the process of being turned into capes by dint of a bit of draping and sewing (so they can revert to being shawls later). Love the hippie vibe!

  • I love kimonos but don’t own one. Well actually now I do – I just ordered the second one – very Nina Proudman! I’ve tried on quite a few but often feel like they are a bit too long/too much fabric. The second one you have on looks like it might work for me – fingers crossed. I really love the first one on you though – it really pops.

    • Yes, the second one is very Nina – she likes a shorter style. Good luck!

  • Sydney Shop Girl

    Yes!! Was just thinking that I needed this look back into my life. Thanks for the update, Nikki!

    SSG xxx

    • You’re welcome – it’s a great casual look as you can be in jeans and tee at home and then just add the cape as you leave the house!

  • Tanya

    Yeah- you’re back! All the kimonos/capes look beautiful on you. I have very broad shoulders, a long body and short legs. Perhaps i could look for a light weight one in a shorter length. Brunch coat ? Never. Pizzaz- definitely

    • I am! And if the fabric is light and drapes beautifully I think it helps across a broad shoulder.

  • merilyn

    all good nikki, on the email … kimono and cape fronts!
    you are ab fab finger on the pulse, on the ball! always impressed by those qualities!
    always a challenge for me … that’s why I don’t have a blog … too many complications and I wouldn’t get my artwork done!
    love kimonos and capes there is something exotic about them a bit cloak and dagger, or zoro! … and they are always in, in Europe or seem to be I love swing coats too! from way back! I have made a warm sit up in bed type by cutting a slit in the centre of a throw and it works a treat not when one gets up to do the breakfast though! happy days! lol m:)X

    • So glad we got the email problem sorted Merilyn! And I too love a swing coat!!

  • PrincessEatsPeaSoup

    I love a kimono/cape. If I am trying to look like someone who picks and outfit consciously, I think adding a kimono is just one of those touches that makes an ensemble look more deliberate and pulled together. Especially if your perspiring in Brisbane and waiting for jacket weather…

    • It is about that conscious addition of something else. And yes, I find this style is great for the in between months here in QLD.

  • Amazing. I am not sure if I could but would love try. The cape/kimono certainly do update your look.

  • Jill

    You often pull it off and look great in these, no doubt about it. And I love some of the gorgeous fabrics and prints.
    But overall, I can’t help but think ….brunch coat!

    • Never owned a brunch coat Jill so don’t have that correlation. They would never be worn with jeans would they?

      • Jill

        Brunchcoats were worn by my mother over her nightie while she made brekkie. Hence my problem!