There are few pieces of clothing that have spanned thousands of years and yet still evoke a sense of the exotic, the bohemian and carefree more than the kaftan.
A traditional garment of the Middle East and North Africa, its popularity is widespread and ever evolving. It’s a piece that isn’t defined by fashion seasons, it’s flattering on pretty much any body (one size fits all), and can be worn for anything from floating about while entertaining at home, languorous summer lunches or as a breezy beach cover-up.
It’s believed that the kaftan originated in Ancient Mesopotamia. And later, during Ottoman times, it was a luxury garment, usually made from fine fabrics such as silk, wool and cotton, highly embellished and worn by sultans, and given as gifts to their peers.
Over the centuries, the kaftan has endured and evolved. By 1966, writes fashion historian Laura McLaws Helms in Arabian Vogue, the fashion bible prescribed the kaftan for every member of high society alongside images of the rich and famous in various adaptations. “Here are the most becoming fashions ever invented,” the magazine published, “the languor of the seraglio clings to them; leisure and repose emanate from them. The classic robes of the Near East, they’re now, suddenly all over the contemporary map—inspiration of great dressmakers and every woman’s discovery in beauty…” And they remain “over the contemporary map” to this day.
Kalai’s kaftans are made from fine ethically produced Indian cotton and feature piecework hand-stitched by a group of artisan women in Kolkata. Ours are beach cover-ups, sheer but not wholly see-through, light, airy, comfortable and oh-so flattering. They’re easy to wear, just throw one over your swimmers, slip on a pair of our Beatnik or Kali sandals and you’re all set to keep your cool in a heatwave. What’s not to love? Shop our Jaipur, Sita and Palm kaftans here.