6 Incredible Ideas: How to Style a Caftan

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The idea of how to style a caftan came as a reader request when Janet reached out to me saying she had this caftan that she has yet to wear.
I didn’t have one of my own to play with, so I asked my mom, and voila, she had one very similar to Janet’s.

Quote of the day: “If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is.” Angelina Jolie

You may think that a caftan is only for lounging around the house, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that.
However, when something is as pretty as Janet’s caftan, I thought it would be fun to experiment with ways to style a caftan. Even if you don’t have a caftan in your closet, these are ideas you could use with many other items you own.

I thought the quote was relevant since a caftan is not something we see out in public very often. Yet it’s usually made of beautiful material, so why not find ways to make it work?

What is a Caftan?

The usual definition of a caftan is a loose variation of a robe or tunic. It is one of those modest clothing items that cover the body and can feel overwhelming if you are used to form-fitting things.

When Janet first reached out about how to style a caftan, my first response was to have it be one of those perfect resort vacation pieces because it could be a swim coverup and then worn to dinner on the same vacation. The funny thing, my friend who lives in Bali, had just posted a video showing off a caftan.

Here is what Janet had to say: “The caftan is like a huge rectangular scarf folded in half with a neck hole, then stitched along the border print all the way from the sleeve opening to the floor.  It looks better with a wide belt over the top but still doesn’t feel like a garment that I could wear outside of the house.  The fabric is actually quite pretty in person, with some shiny dots defining the neckline.  This was a Christmas gift from my husband last year, and you can see that the tag is still attached since I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet.”

She also shared: “This morning I considered that a turtleneck underneath would change the look, but the fabric is very light, so I don’t know if it would be off-balance with a heavier fabric as part of the outfit.  The fabric feels like a really light-weight scarf.”

My response to wearing a turtleneck under it is that’s a fabulous option!! There is no reason you can’t mix different weights of fabric in a look.
For example, I had my mom wear a very lightweight skirt with a sweater and boots.
Because Janet has already thought of this, I didn’t include this option in my 6 incredible ideas of how to style a caftan.

Insider tip: The weight of an item is something known more to the wearer as opposed to the onlooker. Combining different textures and weights of fabrics gives a wonderful combination for an outfit.

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Caftan Style & Modifications

On the left is Janet’s caftan and the photo on the right is the one I borrowed from my mother for this post about how to style a caftan.
I really was amazed at how the colors were so alike in the two different pieces.

You can see that Janet’s caftan has a border on the lower hem and around the neckline. Janet was explaining that because of this she couldn’t shorten it.
However, you can shorten a border hem. You just need to cut the fabric above the border and sew it back on at the length you prefer. With a print like this, you’ll never notice the seam.

Another modification you could do is add a casing on the inside of the caftan with a slit in the front very similar to the tunic dresses that we just styled. This gives you a way to belt it from the inside.

Now let’s see the 6 ideas I had of how to style a caftan without shortening it. You can see that the one I’m modeling is quite long on me, so I ended up wearing heels for most of my options.

1-Add Accessories

Add accessories with a caftan

With a print caftan like this, the material is definitely going to take center stage. And there isn’t any shaping. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look fabulous.

Insider tip: Remember that being thin is not the definition of looking wonderful and being stylish. Confidence is the key and learning that your body is perfect as is.

One way to make sure you look intentional and clothed to step outside the house is to add accessories. Go big or go home as they say.
For my example, I added beautiful heels, wore shoulder-scraping earrings (thanks to Judy for making them for me), added a brooch at the neckline, and made sure my purse had the same fabulous vibe.

Insider tip: Your eyeglasses can be another way to make a look seem more intentional. Don’t think you can only wear glasses that match your complexion.

2-How to Style a Caftan with a Belt

Use a belt as how to style a caftan

Adding a belt to a shapeless item is a quick and easy way to give it some shape and even shortened it. Janet had suggested this option, and it works.

For my example, I still wore long earrings and added a bracelet. A bracelet also gives the outfit the idea that it was planned instead of looking like you left the house in your loungewear.
BTW, notice that I added a contrasting color purse which also creates a different focal point.

Now don’t forget that the chain belts would be another great option to give it some shape but not be as wide.

Insider tip: If you aren’t sure you will wear a chain belt much, get one at the young girl’s stores where they are inexpensive. Even if it doesn’t last a long time, you can find out if it’s something you’ll use. Otherwise, check the secondhand stores too.


Knot up your caftan to give it more shape

One of my favorite tricks is to pull up the extra material and create some ruching or shaping. Since there was quite a bit of material with the caftan, I used a hair elastic for my knot on the side.
Because of the print, you really don’t notice the knot easily yet it pulls up the material around the ankles in an asymmetrical way.

I also included a long necklace in a contrasting color to break up the front of the look. And then carried that same contrasting color into the outfit with my shoes and purse.

4-Wearing a Cardigan

Adding layers for how to style a caftan

Here is an example of combining two different weights in an outfit. The sweater and faux fur scarf are both heavy and bulky, whereas the caftan is lightweight. Yet I think it looks amazing.

The advantage of the caftan being a lightweight material is you can tuck the bat sleeves into a cardigan without trouble.
Don’t be afraid to wear boots with the caftan to keep warm.

5-Layer a Skirt

How to style a caftan with a maxi skirt over it

This is the one trick that most women think won’t work for them. But I have talked about the myths with the idea of layering a skirt over a dress. Truthfully, anyone of any size can do it. Your dress and skirts fit you, so it isn’t any different than layering a sweater over a top.

Since the caftan is long, I style a maxi-length skirt over it and added heels and a brooch at the waist. You’d never know I was working on how to style a caftan with this look, right? You just see a beautiful, print top and a silky skirt.
Of course, you may be worried about covering the caftan since it’s so pretty, but I think it’s even better to have many options of how to wear it, so it gets to see the light of day.

6-Layer Over (or Under) the Top Portion

Wear a micro sweater over something with bat sleeves

As Janet suggested, you could layer under the caftan with a turtleneck or any long-sleeve top. You could also layer a micro sweater like this under it.

However, I wanted to try layering this micro sweater over it to see how it looks. And the reason I chose such a short sweater is so the bat sleeves wouldn’t bunch up. But if you have an oversized sweater or top, this could work too.

Over and under. Those are the two words that will make your layering options even bigger. In fact, you could even layer the rust cardigan in #4 under it after buttoning it up.

Insider tip: Remember, that you won’t know how you like something until you try it. Put it on and take a photo of it to get a better look. Just checking it in the mirror doesn’t give you the entire perspective.

With this example of how to style a caftan, I also wore a head scarf and chose a large purse. Those additions are ways to change the focus.

6 ideas of how to style a caftan

Photo credit: Rob Filogomo

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Welcome to Jodie’s Touch of Style. I’m here to prove that it’s never too late to look great. Clothing and style are meant to showcase your inner personality. So let’s have fun and try new things.

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