My Bloomingdales Cape

antiquevictorianblacksilkcapewithbowI was standing in Bloomingdales in New York, in this one part of the store that I found. It was filled mostly with accessories, but they didn’t cost a million dollars.  I had been in there a couple of days before to buy a scarf, but I just wanted one last look before I flew home to Vancouver the next day, and finished my first ever trip to New York.  This time though, I saw a bunch of capes on a stand. They were made of a felt wool, and they had a pattern – I can’t even remember what colour they were, but it was a dark colour, black or navy. I swear they weren’t on that stand when I had been in the store the other day, otherwise I would have seen them.

The reason seeing these capes was significant, was that they were almost exactly the same as a cape I bought from an antique clothing store twenty years before, when I lived in Derbyshire. The original cape was a Victorian, hand-sewn capelet that was about 100 years old. It covered my shoulders and down to my elbow, and fastened with buttons down the front.

I hadn’t seen a cape like that sold anywhere since then. Not in England or in America. I was 25 when I bought that old cape and I wore it quite a lot back then. At some point, as it happens, I stopped wearing it, and it was not amidst the items brought back to Canada when I returned.  It was made of black wool and had embroidery – green branches and red and orange flowers.

The vintage clothing store was along the marketplace, so to get to the shop, I would cross the marketplace to get there. The marketplace was at the top of the town, a large parking area surrounded by shops, pubs and restaurants, where they would hold the market twice a week. Some days the parked cars filled the marketplace or sometimes it was  completely empty. In the winter there could be a cold bracing wind blowing at your face as you tried to walk across. When it was market day, the market had stalls, how many depended on the weather. Some stalls had red or blue and white striped covers. The stalls sold vegetables and fruit or bread and meat. Sometimes they sold clothes, or pet supplies. Sometimes the bad weather meant there were few stalls. When it rained the water ran down the tarps and dribbled down the corners to the pavement below.

After I bought the cape, on days that I wore it, it felt like I was crossing decades.

I wondered who the lady was, in the 1800’s, who wore the cape long before me. I wondered, did she have to work hard, or did she live an easy life. I wondered what her house was like, and whether she was young or old.

The cape held other memories like my first trip to the Opera House, and I would have worn it on nights out with my boyfriend at the time. Perhaps I wore it when I went to see him play jazz somewhere. I was an ambitious, 25 year old me then. Why couldn’t the 45 year old me have the 25 year old me’s cape?

The reason being was I didn’t have the money. I stood in Bloomingdales, and did the calculations in my head. I needed money for my room service fee, for my taxi to the airport and for my dinner the next day. The cape cost seventy-five dollars. But somehow, my Derbyshire, England cape had ended up in New York, and I wondered how it was there.

I spent a minute or two just spending time with the cape, and admiring it. I accepted the fact I wouldn’t be walking out with it, and I would never see it again. I hadn’t seen anything like it for twenty years but I walked away. If I had seen the capes at an earlier time one could have been mine. It was a casualty of the spending limits of my trip to New York. My time and money were running out at about the same time.

Now, looking back to my trip one year ago I couldn’t fit in everything when I was there. I couldn’t afford a Broadway show, because I had an amazing ticket to see a hockey game. I somehow failed to see the Statue of Liberty, probably due to my overexcitement of being in New York the first time and not knowing where to go next. (Yes this is concerning, considering its size). For next time, at least I know, or realized some months later, that Bloomingdales delivers to Canada. I have things still to see next time I visit New York, and I can shop from here if I want.

Moments are not always perfect, but despite the attempts to gloss them over, it is their imperfections that make them beautiful. I spent the last two hours before I left for the airport diving into expensive shops because the air outside was so cold it was biting my face off. When I told a friend I was planning to go for an early morning run through Times Square, she said “It will be just you and the half-naked cowboy.” But the half-naked cowboy wasn’t there. It seems he fled before I got to New York. This does not discourage my strong desire to go to New York again. As for the cape, sometimes things are there to remind us of ourselves at a different period of time, it’s like time folding over and two different years touching, despite the years in between.


This is a work of creative nonfiction; it contains no composite characters  and no names have been changed. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them, but I have taken some storytelling liberties, due to my interpretation of events, fading memory, lack of time machine, and need to cherry-pick some memories over others in order to express my thoughts within the story.

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