When did kaftans go from beachwear to ready-to-wear?

Have you noticed on your Instagram feed that kaftans are no longer something women simply clothe themselves in on the way to and from the beach? They're no longer just cheap and cheerful throw-ons that women buy for a season and then forget about. Kaftans have become a wear-anywhere, in-any-weather (almost) all-season staple. Pippa Holt, for instance, who founded Pippa Holt Kaftans a couple of years ago, layers hers over sweaters and jeans on autumnal city breaks, and wears them with wellies on wet country walks (see below).


I've never thought of myself as a kaftan kind of girl, but I recently met with one of the co-founders of The Tweed Project, a Galway-based sustainable clothing company, which makes exquisite pieces from indigenous materials. Aoibheann McNamara showed me a beautiful cream kaftan with gold embellishment. The cut was simple but chic, the drape beautiful and the embellishment far too special to save just for beach trips (especially when you're Irish and don't spend much time there). Plus it had a lovely weight to it; it felt substantial, not flimsy like so much of our summer wear. It was the first time I thought of a kaftan as something to invest in rather than just an item to be swiped off a sale rail.

Of course, kaftans are perfect for evening wear too, worn belted with heels (Holt also sells belts); there's something a little bit Abigail's Party about this whole look too, which I love. Even better, kaftans never go out of style. They're classic pieces wth versatility. Naturally enough being Irish, they've just never featured on our radar much. I'm off to Portugal in August, and instead of scouring the dregs of the high street sales, I'm going to splurge on one exquisite kaftan, and challenge myself to style it five different ways over the course of the week. Here are a couple that have caught my eye.


I want versatility from a kaftan, so this blue and white print appeals to me, because it will work so well with neutrals as well as bright blocks of colour. Knee-length is a good option if, like me, you're keen to create as many different outfits as possible from this one piece; this kaftan would look so chic layered over palazzo pants or capri pants.


Ikat kaftan, 6397, €295 (was €421) at farfetch.com

This broderie anglaise kimono jacket is such a beautifully understated piece. A jacket-style kaftan is also a great option if you want to a piece that's as versatile as possible. This piece will double up as a white shirt and can be worn over jeans, or left to hang loose, as a pretty throw-on over a sundress.

Broderie anglaise cotton kimono, Paloma Blue, €275 at net-a-porter.com


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