EASY BREEZY Whether glammed up or kept casual, kaftans are life savers in hot weather.
We’re loving kaftans this summer
A kaftan is simply a long, amorphous garment with flowing sleeves. This loose dress style was originally a long robe mainly worn by men in the Middle East during the 6th century and typically made of silk or cotton.
It was held in such high regard that it became a valued piece of clothing. Indeed, the honour of wearing them was given to the highest officials of the Ottoman Empire during festivals. Luxurious fabrics – such as velvet, satin, silk, cashmere and gold brocade – were used to indicate power, wealth and status. Over time kaftans came to be associated with Morocco, where they are worn exclusively by women.
The 1900s saw the kaftan’s popularity surge in Europe and America, and light-weight kaftans became popular as beachwear. The floaty fabrics and striking colours are so easy to wear, as well as looking stylish and elegant, and they are so light on the body.
By the ’70s it seemed everyone going to the sun had at least one in the suitcase! They’re just brilliant in the heat, mainly because they’re so cool and light. When Elizabeth Taylor wore a Givenchy kaftan for her second wedding to Richard Burton in 1975 it gave massive validation to the garment, and set a fashion trend that has continued to this day.
This summer, many designers have introduced their kaftans as a stand alone show-stopper. The trend can be worn either formally or casually. There is a myriad of styles to choose from – short, long, belted, sheer, textured. I love them all!
They’re fantastic on days when you don’t feel like showing your curves, as they give wonderful coverage. For sheer ones, just wear a long slip underneath; it looks wonderful when the slip picks up one of the colours in the kaftan. If you feel a bit self-conscious about walking around in your swimmers, then this is a fantastic option for both comfort and style! The best thing is that they’re one size fits all, and they suit nearly everyone.
Short ones can look amazing thrown over a pair of jeans. In fact, they fast became my go-to piece of clothing during lockdown. I’ve run up to my friend Cathy in one more than once, much to her amusement – not in a glamorous one, I hasten to add, my ‘lounge’ ones are more like baggy tunics. A few years ago I did invest in some really colourful and elegant Kaftans from Zara – I’ve worn them with flats to summer barbecues and even to the afters of weddings, teamed with a pair of heels.
Get the look
For a glamorous look, try a silk or rayon fabric and team your kaftan with your favourite gold or silver jewellery. Add a pair of heels, or sandals and you will look stunning. There are loads of headpieces on Etsy that could complete the look – though a straw trilby is just as good.
For beach style, team your kaftan with some glitzy sandals and your ‘designer’ shades and you’re good to go. I recommend a natural fabric like cotton, which will keep cool while looking gorgeous.
So while the sun is shining you have the ideal opportunity to up your style game. We can all be a bit more adventurous, and this fluid, hide-all piece of clothing is just the way to do it. If you’re really plucky, and handy with the needle, it’s a doddle to make your own.
For handy towelling cover-up for the beach or pool, all you need to do is get two large bath towels and stitch them along the top and sides, leaving holes for your head and arms. The same applies to any fabric. Definitely worth a try!
Maggie Gibbons is an Image/Style Consultant based in Louisburgh. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.