A kaftan, also spelled caftan, is a long garment with wide sleeves that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, located between the countries of Iraq and Iran. These Persian, robe-like garments also became popular in countries such as Russia and Morocco. Their patterns and colors are usually vivid and detailed. They are a vacation fashion staple that began being considered fashionable in western countries since the 1960s and '70s.
Short, belted versions of the traditionally calf- or ankle-length kaftan can look elegant and interesting in printed silk worn over flowing evening pants. Longer ones make excellent swimsuit cover-ups and are often seen poolside at tropical resorts. Their casual, free-style look suits sandals and open-toe shoes, and they are also worn as lounge and patio wear with house slippers. Some are elaborately beaded and designed as fashionable evening dresses.
A kaftan may be open down the front and come with a self-tie belt, or it may feature a zipper closure. Some voluminous garments have a wide neck and are designed as pull-overs. In general, petite people look best in a style that is closer to knee-length and is body-skimming. If it is too wide or long, shorter people tend to appear even shorter. Taller, thinner figures may be flattered by longer, flowing ones.
The neckline of this garment may be round, square, or v-shaped. People with oval face shapes are likely to be flattered by kaftans with any type of neckline, while those with a square jawline may look best in a round neck. Rounded or full face shapes tend to look best in a v-neckline.
Although fashion kaftans in most Western countries are typically designed for women's wear, this is not the case in many other parts of the world. In the African country of Senegal, it is the national clothing for men. Senegalian garments are ankle-length and usually made of cotton. Russian ones, in rich colors of red, blue, ivory, and tan, are also traditionally men's garments. They are ornately detailed and often trimmed with scalloped, lace-like detailing.
In many West African countries, such as Morocco, women wear kaftans. The style is extremely dressy and feminine for the most part. Lace and satin as well as bold floral prints often accent Moroccan women's garments. Common colors for these ankle length gowns are orange, red, and vivid pink.