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The Cloak of Many Fashions is found in Xanathar's Guide to Everything and says:

While wearing this cloak, you can use a bonus action to change the style, color, and apparent quality of the garment. The cloak's weight doesn't change. Regardless of its appearance, the cloak can't be anything but a cloak. Although it can duplicate the appearance of other magic cloaks, it doesn't gain their magical properties.

My question is does the actual physical shape of the cloak change, or is it entirely an illusion? The description mostly seems to imply to me the former, except for the line where the cloak's weight doesn't change. If I for example changed a cloak made of lace into one made of cloth of gold its weight should absolutely change. That it explicitly doesn't implies illusion.

On the other hand, there are definitely spells and enchantments that change the size of an object without changing its weight. The Pole of Collapsing, also from Xanathar's Guide to Everything, explicitly physically changes a 10-foot pole to a 1-foot-long rod without changing its weight.

On the gripping hand, the line 'regardless of its appearance, the cloak can't be anything but a cloak' seems to imply that it can appear to be other things but remains physically a cloak. Or that could be taken to mean that you can change its appearance however you like as long as it remains a cloak.

What say you?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does it matter? Could you provide a particular case when it does? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 22 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor The OP might want to know what school it might be for a detect magic, which picks up schools of magic 'if any' (So if it is an illusion...it'd ping Illusion, if not, then maybe none). If it's an illusion than someone with True Sight will probably pick up it's an illusion, if it's not (Transmutation, or just non-school) than they wouldn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jihelu
    Aug 23 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jihelu I'd rather the OP explicitly says what the goal is instead of guessing \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Aug 23 at 9:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor It's mostly from an RP angle. Adding pockets is useful if it's a physical change, not so much if it's just illusion. Dangling over a pool of acid, can I shorten it to keep it from dipping in the acid? Can I add a hood when it's raining? Make it a lighter material in the desert and heavier in the frozen north? That sort of thing. Though the True Sight issue Jihelu mentioned is a good point as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuro_Neko
    Aug 23 at 23:44
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The totality of information on the Cloak of Many Fashions is found in the magic item description.

Everything that has ever been written about the Cloak of Many Fashions in the entire 5th Edition corpus is the magic item description given:

While wearing this cloak, you can use a bonus action to change the style, color, and apparent quality of the garment. The cloak’s weight doesn’t change. Regardless of its appearance, the cloak can’t be anything but a cloak. Although it can duplicate the appearance of other magic cloaks, it doesn’t gain their magical properties.

Since this description does not answer your question, it is entirely up to the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In particular, 5e doesn't give the school(s) of magic associated with any magic item. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 21 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Not directly, but see the description of glamoured studded leather in my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Aug 22 at 19:42
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Both the text and context strongly suggest it is illusory

The description of the cloak itself does not indicate whether its magic is illusory or transmutational. The short answer is that we don't know.

That being said, several lines of evidence point to it being an illusion. In the description itself (emphases mine):

While wearing this cloak, you can use a bonus action to change the style, color, and apparent quality of the garment. The cloak’s weight doesn’t change. Regardless of its appearance, the cloak can’t be anything but a cloak. Although it can duplicate the appearance of other magic cloaks, it doesn’t gain their magical properties.

  1. With reference about what can change about the cloak, the word 'apparent' or 'appearance' is used three times. The cloak seems to change, but does not actually change.

  2. What can't change about the cloak are its weight, state of being, and properties. The cloak itself does not actually change.

  3. Compare the description of the cloak to that of Glamoured Studded Leather (emphasis mine):

You can also use a bonus action to speak the armor's command word and cause the armor to assume the appearance of a normal set of clothing or some other kind of armor. You decide what it looks like, including color, style, and accessories, but the armor retains its normal bulk and weight. The illusory appearance lasts until you use this property again or remove the armor.

The extensive parallelism of the descriptions suggests the items function in the same way (and/or that the description of the cloak was modeled on that of the armor), but the leather armor is explicitly described as functioning through illusion magic.

The description of the cloak itself does not definitively tell us what kind of magic is used. But the text and context strongly suggest that it is illusory.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Glamoured Studded Leather explicitly states its effect is illusory. The Cloak does not. The weight thing I already addressed. That it can take the appearance of magical cloaks but not gain their properties is a matter of magical effects not physical properties. And the apparent quality line could easily just mean changing it to cloth of gold doesn't actually get you several pounds of gold. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kuro_Neko
    Aug 21 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kuro_Neko Nothing in my post disagrees with anything you just wrote. Did you think it did? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Aug 21 at 20:11
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Discuss it with your DM, if it really matters.

The item doesn't specify whether the changes are illusory or not. The fact that the cloak doesn't change weight certainly suggests that it's an entirely illusory change, but on the other hand the cloak can change style and cut, and the item description doesn't mention any of the usual difficulties of illusion, such as parts of the cloak potentially becoming intangible.

As such, you'll need to work with your DM to decide exactly how the item would interact with True Sight or other effects that pierce illusion, if you feel like it would ever actually matter.

For what it's worth, there's no reason it has to be entirely one or the other. Many items have elements drawn from multiple schools of magic. The cloak could easily be using a mix of transmutation and illusion -- for example, it might transmute its physical shape to match the intended style, magically folding, stretching, and hemming itself up to adjust the length and drape, but then use a surface illusion to change the apparent material and color. In that case, true sight might show it as plain gray cloth, but still in the shape of what you've selected.

But all that said, this seems unlikely to ever actually come up, so it's probably best to just use the rules as written and not worry about how they mechanically function in the game-world unless and until it comes up and you need an ad-hoc ruling.

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