FASHION - THE EVOLUTION OF THE KAFTAN September 28 2013

"I will never forget the first time I went to St. Tropez with my parents and the most glamorous women all wore Kaftans. A Kaftan is always chic and effortless - it’s a trend that began in the 1960s and has transcended time. Wear it on the beach with gladiator flat sandals or to a black tie affair with tons of jewels and a topknot!" —Rachel Zoe, designer, stylist and Kaftan enthusiast.

Legend has it that Diana Vreeland once pegged the kaftan as “fashionable for the beautiful people.” The kaftan (or caftan) first appeared in Persia at about 600 B.C.

Christian Dior introduced a modern kaftan-like dress in the late ‘50s. But it was Yves Saint Laurent that created kaftans in the ‘60s. It made fashion history because it became the ‘hostess’ dress, worn when you’re hosting a party, and it started the hippie chic or kaftan chic look. In the late ‘60s, Elizabeth Taylor was literally on top of the world especially after her tabloid filled relationship with Richard Burton became public. She even opted for a kaftan as a wedding dress, one by Gina Fratini, second time around to the love of her life Burton. Her favorite designers were Emanuel and Thea Porter (a British Designer who popularized Kaftans and other exotic and ethnically inspired garments in the late ‘60s. Her kaftan collection of the later designer was auctioned off at Christies after her death.

 

Taylor was clever enough to hop on the trend train from the start! In the 1980s, the kaftan lost its allure among the young and fabulous but remained strong and essential to older ladies.  Nowadays, after vintage became ‘in’, thanks to the likes of Kate Moss, vintage kaftans are making a big comeback.  Many ‘A’ list stars are even wearing the kaftans to events, premieres, or galas like Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Sienna Miller, Nicole Richie… All of them rock the look while mixing and matching it with modern pieces…

  Ashley Olsen in vintage Dior, Met Gala, 2013

We’ve also seen a number of models turn designer and create their own swimwear brands also paying homage to the humble kaftan with their own creations such as Heidi Klein and Elizabeth Hurley.

As Autumn descends upon us and as we look forward to Spring/Summer 2014 the kaftan is set to stay with the likes of Michael Kors, Gucci and Roberto Cavali each creating statement pieces for their Resort 2014 collections.