India — Relaxed, comfortable, edgy and versatile, kaftans have enjoyed their moment of fame in the fashion world for years. Today, as we celebrate fashion that’s easy, relaxed and comfortable, kaftans have once again come into the limelight, stirring nostalgia.
“Individual choices have undergone a huge change since the pandemic set in. People are looking at stylish garments that have stood the test of time and are also comfortable enough to wear at home. The Indian summer is also extremely suitable for Kaftans. They are fluid and Indians are very familiar with this silhouette. It was widely used in homes as sleepwear and slowly evolved to the mainstream fashion wardrobe as well in the form of resort wear. It is but natural that they would make a comeback as a sartorial pick for many during these changing times,” says designer Ritu Kumar.
The Ottoman’s of the Turkish Empire wore kaftans in kaleidoscopic colours with a plethora of ribbons and button embellishments. In Northern Africa, women wore it primarily as a one-piece garment. It was also seen as a sleepwear years back until it came into mainstream fashion. In the 50s, designers such as Christian Dior and Balenciaga the ensemble was introduced as a loose evening garment. Later, it was made popular in the 60s by Yves Saint Laurent’s hostess dress.
“Kaftan; a ubiquitous and unisex attire, will always retain its charm. From appearing very first in Persia (600 BC.) to Dior in 50s and YSL in 60s, it hasn’t lost its true essence of flowy appearance and comfort. With minimal radical changes in sleeves or length,” says designer Prreeti Jaiin Nainutia.
Fresher iterations of kaftans curated by designers transmit an air of fun and comfort. They are no more just resortwear. “Their silhouettes have grown into more versatile options that are great not only for your wardrobe at home but also perfect to wear outside or even for formal occasions. As opposed to just a simple kaftan, one will now see kaftan dresses of varying lengths, kaftan inspired tops and capes with textured/embroidered detailing, and prints that take it from a mere piece of clothing that was earlier known for being confined to the house to now a chic garment with a bohemian vibe that is perfect for an outdoor brunch, beach holiday, a glamorous night out with friends, a destination wedding or lounging around in the house, but in style,” explains Kumar.
Designer Rina Dhaka says it makes you feel like you are on a vacation while residing at home. “It is the need of the hour and is not a fad. It is here to stay for a while now. We will see many new variations such as slit kaftans, front open ones and even with belts.”
The versatility of the silhouette makes it the right pick for everyone. “Women with the perfect curves can cinch the kaftan with belts, petite ladies can wear shorter kaftan cord sets with solid colours and open neck lines, taller women can opt for kaftan maxi dresses in fun Jaipuri block prints and even sheer fabrics like Organza and georgette,” recommends designer Anushree Parekh.
Invest in statement prints with matching pants, nothing like a print on print cord set. It is not just for a relaxed look but also formal sightings. “A rich silk kaftan with an open neckline can be a perfect mehendi or a Diwali party outfit teamed with a dressy choker! For the Indian summer, cotton block printed kaftan dress is the perfect go to look,” says Parekh.