Summer Style

The Case for Caftans

Five reasons you should make 2015 the Summer of the Caftan.

By Brittanie Shey April 28, 2015

If it's summer, it's caftan season.

Now that May is almost here, I am declaring 2015 the Summer of the Caftan. Actually, I declared 2014 the Summer of the Caftan, but it didn't stick and I can't figure out why. In fact, since their debut in the 1950s and their downfall in the late 1970s, caftans have been trying to make a comeback for a while now. But finally the time is ripe. Because caftans are awesome, utilitarian garments with personality. They are multi-purpose, which makes them a must-have for fashionistas tackling the other style trend of 2015, the capsule wardrobe. And with Mad Men's final season leading us right into the '70s, boho chic looks like it's here to stay.

Here are five reasons to cover yourself with a caftan this summer.

Stylist and caftan enthusiast Rachel Zoe in Notte by Marchesa in 2009.

Fabulous Women Wear Caftans (And So Do Fabulous Men)

Though the garment's roots go back thousands of years — it was depicted in art from Ancient Persia circa 600 BC — Liz Taylor probably made the caftan mainstream. She wore one in her wedding to Richard Burton (it was the couple's second wedding, so no white gown, obviously). Hillary Clinton wore one to Chelsea Clinton's wedding festivities. Jared Leto wore a sheer number with boxing shorts to a concert in Puerto Rico. And Houston's own Mickey Leland was famous for wearing a dashiki, the West African version of the caftan, early in his career.

And that doesn't even count the fictional character for whom caftans are a staple — Endora from Bewitched, Mrs. Roper, Homer Simpson (okay, that was a muumuu, but the same rules apply).

They're Figure-Flattering

Caftans are to bad body days what the topknot is to bad hair days. No matter how blah you feel, a caftan can hide it all. Last year, New York magazine's The Cut blog famously posted an article on how to get a caftan body. Forget to shave (for three weeks)? Feeling bloated? About to give birth? No worries. There's even a Hawaiian song about Mamas in Muumuus (complete with swinging body parts).

But really — many caftans come with internal ties that can be used to accentuate your waist, or not. My personal favorite caftan covers almost everything but has a flatteringly low neckline, which keeps it from creeping too far into the modesty category. And some caftans are cut with high slits or are super short, if your legs are your pride and your arms are what you want to hide. It's all about finding the right style for you, no shapewear neccessary. 

They're Perfect For (Houston) Summer

Many people think of caftans strictly as beach cover-ups only, and there's a good reason. They're flowy, so they're cool. They don't stick to wet or sweaty skin. They cover all the important bits. But if they're good at the beach, they'll also be good at, say, an all-day outdoor musical festival that takes place during the hottest part of the year. Pair one with a hat and you'll be covered enough to leave the sunscreen at home.

They Dress Up Well

Here's the biggest secret about caftans — they're ridiculously easy to wear, and they can be fancied up ridiculously easily too. Pair one with chunky wedges and some wooden jewelry and you'll be set for any summer party. Or pin a flower in your ear for drinks at Lei Low. You could also wear a caftan-like kimono, such as those made by FP Co Limited over a plain white tank and some cutoffs for a more modern look. And in case you think caftans can't be sexy, check out this lovely lace number from Revolve Clothing.

Go Vintage, Or Make Your Own

My current favorite caftan came from eBay, but I've also bought them (yes, I own multiple) at Replay on 19th and Leopard Lounge. But that's not to say caftan fashion has to be a vintage look. For mid-range prices, Langford Market has several styles. For a splurge, this bandana dress from Billy Reid fits the bill at under $500 (barely). Or you can always make your own, since they're really just a rectangle of fabric with arm holes and a neck hole. You don't even need to know how to sew.



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