Little embroidered riding hood
March 25, 2015 5:51 AM   Subscribe

My husband's aunt gave me a beautifully embroidered cape that I will never ever wear, not in a million years. What should I do with it?

The cape belonged to her mother-in-law, who used to travel a lot to South America, so she thinks it was probably bought there, but it could also be from here in Madrid. She has no other information about it, not even how old it is. There are no tags or other identifying marks, and it looks handmade to my semi-knowledgeable eye. The wool is excellent quality and there are no moth holes or stains as far as I have seen. I am 5'4" and it skims about 1" off the floor when I'm in bare feet (and standing up very straight).

She gave me the cape because she knows that I sew, and she thought I could make throw pillows out of it. This might not be a bad idea, but a) I hate to cut up something so lovely and b) I have a cat with a lot of white fur, so... hahaha. NO.

On the other hand, I don't want to just keep it around. It smells like mothballs, so obviously it's been taken care of, but I don't want to go to that kind of trouble for something that I will never wear. Like, literally. Where the hell would you wear something like this anyway? Maybe the Academy Awards. Or the Royal Opera House, in 1910. Perhaps the original owner had the same problem, since the cape is in pristine condition.

Would it be worth my while to try to sell it (on Etsy, perhaps)? Would a museum take something of such doubtful provenance (could be from somewhere in S. America, could be from here in Spain, could be 15 years old, could be 50)?

My mom suggested that I could display it somehow as a piece of art, but I live in a small apartment and I think it would look very large and black and out of place. I did run across this pattern for a moto jacket that could incorporate the embroidery really well, and it's within my range as a sewist, but again, I'm not sure I would ever wear something like that. I normally dress like a 15-year-old skate rat, and I don't do statement pieces.

So, AskMe, what should I do with this beautiful cape? Sell it, donate it, cut it up and remix it? Something else I haven't thought of?
posted by lollymccatburglar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Someone will want this. Maybe Etsy?
posted by steinwald at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2015

Send it to me?

...worth a shot.

You could get quite a lot for it on Etsy, by the looks of things.

I suggest airing it outside for a long, long time to get the mothball contamination out of it.
posted by tel3path at 6:08 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Maybe donate it to a local theatre's costume department?
posted by _Mona_ at 6:09 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would sell it unless you'll have a friend who would really, really appreciate it. When I give special vintage stuff to friends (I collected stuff back in the nineties when you could find amazing things in thrift stores), I usually try to feel confident that they'll take care of it - it can be really sad to give someone an irreplaceable embroidered jacket, for example, only to discover that they've left it in the mud at a punk show while drinking and it's totally ruined. (Not that it's my business what people do with a gift, and not that I said anything.)

But anyway - if you sell it, it will most likely go to a collector who will take care of it. It does not, to me, look like a museum piece ( even though it's gorgeous and amazing and if I didn't already have more opera coats than I can wear I would totally covet it).
posted by Frowner at 6:12 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would clean it up so it doesn't smell like mothballs and then hang it on the wall. I don't think it's very practical as clothing, but it could be lovely as art.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:38 AM on March 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

I would absolutely wear something like that, but I think that it might be difficult to tell your aunt you sold it. If you're thinking of having kids, I might hold it to see if they'd like it.
posted by jeather at 6:43 AM on March 25, 2015

Frame it, in a way that perhaps future generations can take it out and enjoy it, as when they go to the Academy Awards
posted by gilsonal at 6:43 AM on March 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Just to clear up jeather's concern, the aunt in question thought it was ugly (there's no accounting for taste!), so I don't think she will care what I do with it.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:46 AM on March 25, 2015

That's gorgeous. Most of my friends are big in the historical reenactment/Renaissance Faire/medieval fantasy communities, so I know literally dozens of people who would love to own a cloak like that. If you don't know anyone personally, then in addition to Etsy there are also Facebook communities that deal in the trade and sale of this sort of thing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:57 AM on March 25, 2015

If you cut it up and refashion it into something new, I think you'll get more wear out of it if you make it into a great coat. You can use the big placket on the back and then use the rest to edge the cuffs and maybe slash pockets and/or appliqued on the collar. It's lovely!
posted by carmicha at 7:03 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You absolutely could sell this--although it might be difficult on Etsy if you don't already have a shop. See if a local vintage shop (higher end) will take it on consignment or donate it to a local theatre company, which may well repurpose it, but will likely appreciate it. The costuming communities on Facebook are a good suggestion (or perhaps someone will memail you an offer).

Since you don't think you'd wear it, even if you remade it into a more modern piece, do you have a cousin or friend who would? If you'd enjoy working with that lovely fabric and know someone who would love the finished project, that seems a win-win to me.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:04 AM on March 25, 2015

Are you ever going to have children? Might just pack it away and see if one of them enjoys it someday (dress up, whatever).

Cut it into a square or rectangle as use it as a tablecloth?
posted by amaire at 7:04 AM on March 25, 2015

Man I don't even know what LARPing is but that cape makes me want to. I would think you could easily find someone into dressing up and sell that thing. And because it's wool the mothball smell shouldn't take long to air out. Don't get it wet in case that amazing embroidery thread should happen to run.
posted by resurrexit at 7:08 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sell it or donate to a local theater for costuming. (And if you do want to sell it, how much?!?)

(Not quite sure why, but my first thought was Eastern European, like Poland or Hungary, not South American.)
posted by easily confused at 7:19 AM on March 25, 2015

Well, I am totally 100% ready to buy it off you this minute. So, I think you'll have luck finding it a new home! I'd go for ebay rather than etsy if you don't already have a shop. Or, you know, memail me.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:23 AM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah - it definitely has a Hungarian feel to me. I would buy that in a hot second.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:24 AM on March 25, 2015

So, you'll let us know if you're selling, right?
posted by Sophie1 at 7:25 AM on March 25, 2015

I think it should be the prize for a poetry competition. Or literary competition. You decide the theme -- something meaningful to you, or to your aunt -- and the cape will be given to that person who best embodies the theme.

Anyone who enters will be known to be enamored of the cape, and awarding it to someone is more meaningful than just giving it or selling it. In addition, you'll be responsible for bringing some beauty to the world through the competition, and the cape's beauty to someone who will appreciate it for what it is and also for the achievement it represents.

Perhaps that person could pass the cape on through a similar mechanism in two years or so.

In any case, the work on that deserves to be treated as special, I believe.
posted by amtho at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

gilsonal: Frame it, in a way that perhaps future generations can take it out and enjoy it, as when they go to the Academy Awards
Yep, treat it as art, because it is.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:44 AM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

amtho: "I think it should be the prize for a poetry competition. "

I smell a Mefi project, given the response here...
posted by notsnot at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have an etsy shop and it's a LOT of work to set up and run. It's also difficult to get many views without quite a few items for sale. So I would recommend a different venue to sell it.
posted by harrietthespy at 7:54 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could, for instance, memail me or the 10 other people who've shown interest and see if any of us would buy it. I totally would.
posted by jeather at 8:16 AM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Whoa, I had no idea that I would get so many (or any) offers to buy the cape! If you expressed interest, I may or may not get in contact with you tonight (busy at the moment), so check your memails.

Thanks for all the other fantastic ideas, everyone. I'm marking a lot of ideas as best (especially the poetry contest!), even if I'm not going to use them.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 8:50 AM on March 25, 2015

I would so wear this and brighten up grey Beijing, if I was lucky enough to buy it off you.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 9:14 AM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would also wear it! Ebay and etsy are both good choices.

Maybe a posting here if you go this route since so many of us are interested?
posted by firei at 4:10 PM on March 26, 2015

Since your husband's aunt doesn't care what you do with it, I'd get it to someone who will love it and use it now, rather than saving it for someone who may want it in the future. Since so many MeFites have an interest in buying it from you, it seems you have a perfect answer.
posted by jeri at 12:05 AM on March 29, 2015

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