Simple in design, yet evocative of the utmost drama and intrigue, capes are sartorial shorthand for imminent action.
Go up to any kid on the street and ask him what Dracula looks like. Or any adult, for that matter. The answer is always the same. They won’t describe the figure from Bram Stoker’s novel, a gaunt old man with a moustache. They won’t describe Max Schreck from NOSFERATU, the first filmed version of the book. They won’t describe Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, surnamed Dracula and nicknamed “The Impaler.” They will tell you that Dracula has dark hair, slicked back, with a widow’s peak. And they will tell you that he wears a cape. Always. Thank Bela Lugosi for that. He forevermore fixed in the public consciousness what the vampiric Count is supposed to look like. (Even what he’s supposed to SOUND like.) But why did they choose to put Bela in a cape in the first place?
Capes are magical. Ask any little kid who ties a pillowcase around his neck and pretends to fly around his backyard. (I did it. Bet you did, too.) Look at the etymology of the word. It has the same root as “escape,” as in “to get away.” In other words, it transforms the wearer. Would Bela have been as scary without his trademark black cape?