WHAT TO wear for summer holidays and/or weekends at the beach, by the pool? Long, lazy days call for breezy comfort and style, a garment you can wear to the water, pop it off for a swim and then put it back on for cocktails at a restaurant. Too much to ask?
Could a caftan solve the problem? According to Vogue, a caftan, believed to have its origins in ancient Mesopotamia, “has become the catchall term in fashion for any kind of loose-fitting robe or tunic. [Strictly speaking] a true kaftan is a narrow cut, long robe with full sleeves, either with a deep open neck or fully open to the floor.”
Lately, that loose, flowy dress in a variety of lengths and styles, has seen a renaissance. Popular in the 1960s, the garment has been worn by the likes of Grace Kelly (who favored Pucci with matching turbans), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill and socialite Talitha Getty, famous for her boho-inspired clothing. At the most recent Paris fashion week, designer Jacquemus kicked off his runway presentation with a beige-colored, floor-length satin kaftan. In February, actress Maya Rudolph wore a red Valentino caftan as a presenter at the 2018 Oscars. Last August Hillary Clinton traded in her pantsuits for a Tiffany-blue caftan and silver heels. Google “ caftan” on fashion sites like Net A Porter, and you’ll get a few pages of results.
To go from patio to the piazza, trade in the flip-flops for strappy sandals and accessorize with big earrings, necklace or a big cuff. Choosing the right caftan for you, though is a necessary first step. Caftans can overwhelm a small frame and bulk up a larger one. You don’t want to look as if you’re wearing a tent.
Speaking of tents, despite raves from fashion magazines, the aforementioned Hillary won no prizes in my book for that shapeless smock. Pretty color, yes, but the dress swallowed her up, flattering no part of her figure. It billowed out like a mumu. And Maya Rudolf didn’t fare much better, despite the high-fashion label. In this case, the long red dress encased her like a mummy.
So, forewarned is forearmed. If you’re 5 feet 2 inches, go for above-the-knee looks, like one from Pippa Holt (expensive, alas, yes) or for more of a tunic, opt for Tory Burch. Think short sleeves or sleeveless, too. If you like the coverage, pair a short style with a pair of slim pants. Balance a flowy top with trim legs. Even if you’re not vertically challenged, leave some ankle showing. Side slits that break up a long shape are your friend. Prints or patterns add impact but beware of excessive beading.
They come in every price point from a lacy, openwork style for $49.99 at Zara to a floral-embroidered, metallic knit from Missoni for $3,057.
Left: In luxe terrycloth, this Splendid x Margherita Capri Caftan, the fruit of a collaboration with Margherita Missoni and Splendid, feels almost like a beach-friendly blanket—a perfect post-swim wrap. $188, shopbop.com. Right: Dressing for the heat in high summer. From Sonia Rykiel’s spring/summer 2018 Paris runway show.
This light and airy coverup caftan looks like a good solution for hot-weather dressing. $49.99, zara.com.
Left: Pippa Holt’s Single Panel Midi Kaftan calls for a belt to cinch in the waist. The perfect piece to go from dockside to dinner. $725 at modaoperandi (no longer available). Right: A mustard-yellow Livietta linen kaftan with deep v-neckline from Three Graces London is ideal for day-to-night styling. Cropped kimono-style sleeves and a loose silhouette with open seams for a relaxed look. Complement the dress with gold jewelry and coordinating metallic sandals. $485, matchesfashion.
Left: Pippa Holt’s embroidered, above-the-knee cotton kaftan works for those of shorter stature. $725, matchesfashion. Right: Two’s Ikat caftan with black front in medium-weight cotton. $385, shopspring.
Left: From Tory Burch spring 2018 runway collection. Right: Tory Burch’s knee-length Alcott Beach Caftan with ticking stripe and embroidered detail is pool- and beach-ready. $298, saksfifthavenue.