Kaftans are believed to have originated from present day Turkey, Syria and Iraq, which were known as Mesopotamia, also known as the “Cradle of Civilization” in ancient times. Simply put, it is a long loose garment with long sleeves, more like a robe, and can be tied at the waist with a sash or belt. They can be made from wool and cashmere too, but cotton and silk are more common and widely used.
They can be worn by both men and women, at any time of the day. They provide the most comfortable feeling for a woman’s body. They can be glamorous and comfortable at the same time. The most important feature of a kaftan is that it looks attractive on all body shapes and sizes. If you are a wee bit overweight, wearing it is the best way to hide those extra pounds. They can be long or short and you can choose one that meets your needs. A traditional one can be converted to a halter or a strapless dress with a little holding and finesse making it the ultimate piece of convertible clothing. Isn’t it just a very versatile outfit? It is the one outfit that has been around for centuries and is worn all over the globe to date, making an international fashion statement.
That explains the kaftan in a nutshell. Let’s talk about silk, also called the “Queen of fibres/textiles/fabrics”. Ever wondered why it is called so? Silk is considered to be the most luxurious fibre in the market today. This is because it has the ability to withstand great pulling strength, or rather it is tensile, and is considered to be the strongest natural fibre. The natural protein present in the silk is responsible for the fabric’s good absorbency, thereby making it a comfortable fabric to wear throughout the year; cool in summer and warm in winter.
Due to its good absorbency, it has a good affinity for dyes. Once dyed, it is considered colorfast in most conditions. It has great drapability and the suppleness of the fabric feels amazing on the skin.
It is therefore natural that the union of the most luxurious fibre with the most comfortable outfit would give birth to silk kaftans, a garment that spells luxury, elegance, class and comfort. Some of the most beautiful garments in the world are made from silk and this particular garment is no exception.
Silk kaftans are worn all over the globe. Although they are thought to be of Islamic origin, they are associated with India, Russia, Southeast Asia, and West Africa. It is the ethnic wear of several countries throughout the globe.
In West Africa it is known as the boubou, while the North Africans wear a jellabiya, a long flowing like robe with wide sleeves. In the Middle East and North Africa, the women wear an abaya, a kaftan style robe, usually black in colour.
Moroccan ones are worn mostly by woman in a style called takchita, a two piece outfit that includes an under dress with a decorated over dress, usually worn for special events and weddings.
The traditional Japanese kimono and the Chinese hanfu are both variations of the versatile garment. The slim fitting long jackets that are known as sherwanis in India and khalat in Persia are also versions of the same.
The traditional Russian garments sermiaga, terlik, zhupan and zipun are all different forms of the same outfit.
Today, if a woman wants to mix elegance and comfort, exotic and simplicity, she wears a kaftan. It can be effortlessly worn from poolside to barbecue to a cocktail party to a black tie and look elegant at the same time. It is the ultimate holiday wardrobe item, very popular on cruises. Ladies going to the races can make a statement by turning up in silk kaftans and feeling like a million dollars.
Today we are living in a cosmopolitan world whereby we live, work and intermingle with people from different countries, faiths and ethnic backgrounds. We make friends with these people and it is normal that we are invited to their parties, weddings etc. The problem of not knowing what to wear is no longer a problem as your silk kaftan blends in with, and respects all traditions and cultures, the ideal outfit!
Regal or simple, silk kaftans are comfortable through and through. They look beautiful on young women as well as older women, thin or heavy-set women. They are timeless, adaptable and worn by women across the globe, from the commoners to the royalties and celebrities. One size fits all and will take you from daytime to evening in a split second. If you go anywhere, never go without your silk kaftans. You never know when you might need one!