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How to Wear a Kaftan

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Cynthia is an administrator, has a degree in Business, Economics, & History, and is a qualified Hypnotherapist. She loves to write & travel.

Caftans in the casbah in Tetouan.

Caftans in the casbah in Tetouan.

What Is a Kaftan?

Kaftans have made a huge comeback onto the fashion scene in recent years, becoming increasingly more popular for both casual and formal wear. But what is a kaftan and when and how would you wear one? A traditional kaftan or caftan is a garment that is a loose, ankle-length robe that has long, flowing sleeves.

They were originally worn by men in the Middle East and were long robes that buttoned up the front and were made in either cotton or silk. They often had a belt or a sash around the waist with long or elbow-length sleeves. If you want to know what these may have looked like, there is still an amazing collection of imperial kaftans sewn in rich, luxurious fabrics that were once worn by the Ottoman Sultans of Turkey displayed in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Some of these rich garments were so prized and valuable that they were presented to generals if they were successful in battle or important officials of the Empire during religious festivals. They were also historically worn by men in Russia, where they were more of a long, suit with tight sleeves, and by the 19th century, they were generally only worn by shopkeepers and poorer people.

Where in the World Are Kaftans Traditionally Worn?

Caftans are still a very popular traditional dress to wear in Morocco, where they are worn by women rather than men, and they can be bought in a wide range of fabrics, colours and designs, and are worn to weddings, engagement parties, and other formal occasions. There are even top-end designer Moroccan kaftans that retail for a lot of money, as well as simpler ones for more casual events. They are also worn in West Africa, where they are also known as a boubou, and these kaftans are simple robes that slip over the head and are often very brightly coloured and patterned. There is also a tradition of wearing them in Southeast Asia, where the fabrics that are used to make the kaftans have been dyed using the batik method of producing colourful floral and abstract patterns.

These days, however, kaftans have been adopted as a great style to wear in many other parts of the world as they are an exceptionally versatile garment that can be worn in very many trendy and individual ways and for lots of different events. One of the reasons that contemporary caftans are so sought after is that they are easy to just slip over your head and are an undemanding and comfortable garment to wear.

Kaftans on the Beach

One of the most popular ways of wearing one these days is as a coverup on the beach. A kaftan made from a light, breezy fabric is the perfect thing to accessorize with your bikini or swimsuit and as a long one covers most of your body it can really help to protect your skin from burning due to the strong rays of the sun. Because this is not a fitted garment, it will also help you to stay cool on those long hot days on the sand and is also great if you are a bit self-conscious about your body in swimwear and want to cover up but still stay cool and look gorgeous.

For the beach, it is best to try to get a kaftan in a natural fabric such as organic cotton, as natural fabrics breathe and help to keep your body cooler. Team up your beach caftan with a stylish pair of sandals and maybe even a belt and some designer shades, and you have the perfect outfit for lunch at that little beachside restaurant for very little extra effort.

Kaftan Dresses

Kaftan dresses can be worn for both formal and casual occasions, and the styling opportunities for them are endless. These great dresses suit women of almost any size or shape depending on the style you choose and also can helpfully disguise any bits of flab that you do not want to be accentuated. Moreover, long-sleeved kaftans with a low V-neck are incredibly flattering for women with a bigger bust.

For some boho chic, cinch your kaftan in with a wide leather belt to make your waist look tiny, find the perfect floppy brimmed hat, and pop on a pair of flat, leather sandals. Add a pair of large, designer sunglasses and a soft, fabric shoulder bag and instantly you have the perfect boho-chic outfit that you can wear on weekends, to casual summer parties, or to the beach. For more formal occasions look for one in a more luxurious fabric such as silk and choose a more fitted design. Or add some seductive allure by choosing one made from layers of luxurious, sheer fabric.

Dress your evening kaftan up even more with some chic statement jewelry and jewelled sandals with heels. Again a great gold or silver belt will add to the luxury feel of your outfit and highlight your narrow waist. If you want to enjoy wearing the brightly coloured, patterned kaftans of West Africa, you can find them complete with the matching scarves and headwraps that will complete your outfit.

Kaftan Tops and Tunics

Kaftan tops are great for casual wear and come in many different colours and designs. In the winter, choose one in a thicker, warmer fabric and wear it over jeans and leather boots. In the summer choose a lighter fabric, such as silk or cotton, and wear your kaftan top over shorts. Choose some great beads or jewelry to dress your top-up or to achieve that perfect casual look.

Kaftans for Loungewear and Nightwear

If you are trying to stay cosy and warm or alternatively if you are wanting to stay as cool as possible, then a kaftan is the perfect loungewear or nightwear. A flowing caftan in a thick, warm fabric is the perfect loungewear for cuddling up on the sofa on those long winter nights, or for staying toasty warm under your duvet all night. Pick one out in a lovely light fabric such as soft, luxurious organic cotton or filmy silk if you want to look elegant and stay cool on those long, hot sultry summer nights. They make perfect loungewear and sleepwear because they are so loose and comfortable, and are so easy to just slip on over your head.

Where to Find a Great Caftan

So these are great garments to have in your wardrobe if you are into personal style. One of the most exciting ways to get a great kaftan is to find one when you are traveling; haggling for your chosen garment in a bazaar in North Africa or the Middle East is likely to be an experience that you will always remember!

If you are not planning any exotic trips, then you will be able to find a great selection of them in the shops. However, one of the very best and easiest places to find a wonderful kaftan is online. There is an amazing range for you to choose from, so go online today to choose the perfect one for you.


luxaccess on November 06, 2017:

Very nice blog and interesting as i was afraid to wear such type of clothes but now i think i can go with it.

Bhudie Shien on May 26, 2017:

Thank you for writing an article of kaftans.. I just bought a very fashionable kaftan dress and wanted to know the meaning of it.. so thanks to you!

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on January 05, 2011:

Happy New Year Hello, hello! Thanks for reading about kaftans and leaving a comment

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 05, 2011:

They are comfortable and beautiful.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on January 04, 2011:

With the freezing weather we are having in the UK, it is more a case of a cosy, warm kaftan to wear snuggled up in front of the fire, Sidney! Thanks for reading about kaftans and leaving a great comment

SidneyMorgan from Australia on January 04, 2011:

With our very strong Australian sun, and the number of red burn people I saw on the beach over the New Year weekend seems more Australian should be covering up and trying out a few styles of kaftans that are made for the beach. Thanks for the informative hub.

CMHypno (author) from Other Side of the Sun on January 03, 2011:

As a woman it is always great to be able to wear a garment like a caftan, that can hide a few bumpy bits and doesn't require tortuous underwear! Thanks for reading about how to wear a kaftan and leaving a great comment, katiem2.

Katie McMurray from Ohio on January 03, 2011:

I love it, the Kaftan or Caftan is stylish and comfy, two very good qualities when it comes to womens wear. Thanks for the info on what a kaftan is and how to wear a caftan! :) Katie