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What Is A Caftan & How Do You Wear One?

It's not very often that you can find a piece that mixes contemporary fashion, comfort, and African heritage as wonderfully as the caftan. The Afrocentric Kaftan — often known as a "caftan" in the West — is a fashionable and beautiful piece of clothing worn by Black women all over the world! 

Learn how to wear a caftan for a day out, a celebration, or a gathering with friends. The more you learn about them, the more you'll want to make caftans a part of your go-to ensemble.

What Is a Caftan?

A caftan is a long, loose-fitting, and flowy dress. Caftans resemble long-sleeve tunics, but they have larger sleeves and are made of lightweight fabrics to keep cool in the heat. 

Caftans come in a variety of colors, patterns, and hues, making it easy to find one that complements your personal style.

Caftan vs. Muumuu

Muumuus, like the Caftan, have been worn by women for many years and are native to Hawaii. They were designed to be a shorter, less formal version of the Holoku, a traditional floor-length gown. Muumuus are frequently designed with vibrant colors and floral motifs to match Hawaiian culture.

The Caftan's designs and prints are intended for Black ladies who want to express themselves with flair and grace. Muumuus are available in a variety of patterns and lengths, but they are not as versatile as caftans.

Different Types of Caftans

No matter what you’re getting up to, there is bound to be a caftan out there to match your style and needs. 

Long

Long caftans are the most common and simplest version to find. They are mainly Afrocentric in design. The sleeve lengths for this style can differ, but the dress will always reach your ankles.

Short

Caftans were originally intended to cover your entire body. Some modern variations have been adjusted to be shorter to show off your legs and keep up with current trends.

Open

Caftans are typically thought of as a dress with a totally closed front. However, open styles, such as lightweight overcoats, can also be found. 

Many women cover up their swimsuits with short-open caftans. Wearing long-open caftans over other clothing is also a really popular style, especially for beautiful spring and fall outfits.

V-neck

Several caftans are designed to be worn in a conservative manner, but some may have missed that memo! The V-neck style is used to highlight your assets while never exposing them. They are appropriate for warm, relaxed occasions such as a day at the pool or a family BBQ.

Fitted

Fitted versions are narrow around the midsection to enhance your physique, whereas the original caftans were designed to swing loosely around your body. For a church event or a day in the city, some patterns are cinched with a tie or paired with an eye-catching corset belt. This makes them quite adaptable.

Dual-Layer

Some caftans feature a solid initial layer and a transparent outer layer, creating an attractive and stunning piece. These dresses are frequently one solid color, but designers will occasionally add jewels, embroidered hues, or extravagant trims to lend a little extra detail to the dress.

History of Caftans 

The heritage of caftans combines ancient opulence and contemporary elegance. They were created specifically for royalty, with both men and women wearing the pieces. 

The design originated in Mesopotamia and was adopted by cultures in Southwest Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Caftans were eventually adopted by Jewish and Russian designers as well, who created their own designs.

These made their way to America in the early twentieth century. Styles, pronunciations, and patterns have evolved since its inception. The way a caftan is worn reflects the individual style of the wearer.

5 Tips for Choosing Your First Caftan

Here are a few pointers for first-time buyers:

  • Choose a short caftan with a drawstring waist if you’re headed to the beach. This way, the dress will have a more tailored appearance and won’t drag in the sand.
  • A V-neck caftan with side slits and angled sleeves in silky or glittery fabric is ideal for a beautiful evening out.
  • Pay close attention to the finer details! On the neckline and sleeves of many embroidered caftans, there is exquisite beadwork or embroidery.
  • Instead of a bright, patterned caftan, opt for a solid color caftan with historic patterns on the sleeves, collar, and hem if you're not into dramatic trends.
  • Caftans are typically one-size-fits-all, and most ladies can wear them with ease. They are, however, options specially developed for plus-size women so that anyone can feel comfortable in their caftan.

How to Wear a Caftan

Caftans are quite flexible pieces due to their simple nature. You can easily dress them up for a night out or down for errands on the weekend. They're also fantastic for lounging. 

Wear a long caftan with flat, strappy sandals or simple espadrilles to enjoy the summer breeze. The wind will create a dramatic, billowing silhouette that will capture everyone's attention.

What should you wear under a caftan? If the fabric of the caftan is translucent, cover it with a cami or long slip in a complementary color or one that complements your skin tone. Under a sheer dress or open caftan, solid-colored jeans and a camisole would also look great.

In warmer weather, short caftans look great with some jeans. By layering leggings or thick stockings underneath any caftan, you may transform it from warm weather to cold. If you add an opulent fur coat on top for extra protection against the cold! 

How to Style a Caftan

Caftans are often seen as statement pieces. This means they don't require much accessorizing to look amazing. That doesn't mean you can’t always add an accessory or two. 

If you always like to leave the house with at least one add-on, style your caftan with a leather belt cinched at the smallest part of your waist to give you that hourglass shape. Flats, jeweled or strappy sandals, and open-toe heels all work well with caftans. 

Another good accessory to add is a huge pendant or statement necklace, that would look excellent with a caftan that doesn't have any neckline embellishments. Jewelry that contrasts with the hues of your caftan is always a smart option. Combining gold with purple, or orange and blue, for example, creates visual interest. Also matching your jewelry, shoes, and handbags can give an amazing look.

Most ladies wear caftans to formal events, along with an evening clutch and fun jewelry. Accessorize with whatever makes you feel attractive when it comes to you and your caftan.

Finding the Right Caftan for Your Unique Self

Many different designers have included these gowns in their lines, but there are also caftans online that can easily elevate your caftan style! 

Despite the fact that caftans have been around for thousands of years, today's versions are distinctively modern and ideal for any woman's wardrobe. These clothes are a fantastic way to honor African culture and history.

Conclusion

Now you know everything about caftans — all that’s left is finding the perfect style for you. From cut to color to pattern, there’s an array of options out there for you to check out on the La Blanca website

Sources:

A Fashion History Of The Kaftan: Morocco's Traditional Dress | The Culture Trip

kaftan | Fashion History Timeline

How to Wash Clothes With Sequins, Beads or Accents | The Spruce

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