Tropical temperatures and sunny days conjure up the thoughts of lounging by the pool in a caftan dress (also known as a kaftan). It’s the ultimate warm-weather attire and effortlessly elegant. Historically, caftans go back several centuries as a favored dress for both men and women in the Middle East and North African countries. The kaftan style is defined by an ankle-length, loose-fitting robe style made out of lightweight material.
So, what is a caftan dress? A caftan dress takes inspiration from the original caftan and modernizes it as a fashion piece popular today. Though typically considered a clothing piece for casual wear, there are styles still appropriate for evening wear. These styles include short and long lengths, cover-up variations, and caftan dresses that can be worn on their own.
The beautiful part is that, like women’s designer jumpsuits, caftans have never gone out of style. They’ve just been reinterpreted and redefined over the years to become a fashion mainstay. When it comes to wearing a woman’s caftan dress, we’re sharing a few of our favorite ways to keep you both comfortable and chic.
Tips for Styling a Caftan Dress
There are several ways to style a caftan dress depending on where you’re headed and what the occasion calls for. Regardless of length, color, or pattern, here are a few general styling tips to keep in mind.
- Keep it simple - The beauty of a caftan is that it serves as the standout piece to your outfit. That means you don’t have to add too much to make your ensemble feel complete. Lean into the loose and airy vibes a caftan dress offers and keep the look simple.
- Play up the color - Even if black or neutrals are part of your normal color palette, the elegance of a caftan dress calls for vibrant hues, perfectly suited for your next beach vacation or spa getaway. If you’re not quite ready for a huge splash of color, choose a pattern that subtly works it in.
- Focus on a flattering fit - Though caftans are meant to be loose and billowy, you don’t want to overwhelm your frame with a fit that’s too big. Choose the size that’ll allow you to move around easily but doesn’t feel too long or wide.
- Plan different outfits - When you find a caftan dress you love, you can create multiple outfits by switching shoes, adding in pops of color, and dressing outfits up or down with accessories. It gives you versatility for your wardrobe, which is yet another benefit of this style.
Although these are good reminders, as with most things in fashion, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to styling a caftan dress. A good fit and flattering color is really all you need to get started.
Style Ideas for Short Caftans
A short caftan dress works well when you’re headed to the pool, beach, or spa. When temperatures are at their highest and you want to stay cool, it can be worn as a cover up over your swimsuit or on its own as you head out for lunch or afternoon activities.
Additionally, a short caftan allows you to highlight the legs and welcome a fun and flirty vibe to put you in a vacation mode. Here are a few of our favorite short caftans and ideas for how to style them.
Kimi Emily Caftan
The warm and luxurious feel of the Kimi Emily Caftan delivers a cheetah print that’s timeless and chic. The sleeves balance out a short hem with a frontal tie fastener to secure the wrap style waist.
Let the beautiful print be the star of the look by accessorizing with black resort sandals and delicate gold or rose gold jewelry, such as the black Pivot Necklace or Asha Necklace. When you have a pattern as eye-catching as this caftan, it’s best to find accessories that complement the outfit rather than compete with it.
Malia Short Caftan
The pretty femininity of the violet Malia Short Caftan is an ideal choice for pool lounging or walking along the beach. The sheer, lightweight material and V-neckline makes this caftan dress better suited as a cover-up over your favorite designer bikini. A pop of white underneath keeps the resort look fresh and modern.
Choose from the Lyra hue, which is a lighter shade of purple topped with a mini floral pattern, or opt for the deep, bold eggplant color of the Louise, which has a soft pink polka dot pattern. Either way, stick with neutral-colored sandals and pops of silver to play up the cool tones of each. Then, add a multi-colored head scarf or a straw-colored beach hat, like the Vix Visor or Zeus Hat to complete the look.
For the kind of chic laid-back style you can wear when exploring a new town, the Petit Marissa Caftan is the perfect wardrobe choice. The stylish pattern and blend of deep red and white adds sophistication to otherwise comfortable attire. Complete the look with a matching red bikini and have all heads turning! Dress features like a knot waist detailing and scallop front hemline elevate the style even further.
Wear neutral block heels when headed to a casual lunch or afternoon coffee date. Or slip on a pair of white sneakers when walking around town. In addition, this caftan dress transitions beautifully between summer and fall when paired with the right layers. A structured denim jacket or knee-length cardigan are two ways to change up the look. Then, simply swap out heels or sandals for ankle booties instead.
Style Ideas for Long Caftans
The long caftans are typically what people think of when it comes to this dress style. Ankle-length and floaty with a touch of elegance, a maxi-length caftan is a fashion choice that works for everyone. Whether you decide to go bold with your color choice or keep it classic in black or white, styling a maxi caftan is fun. Don’t overthink it; simply go with the flow.
Goa Braid Caftan
It’s easy to fall in love with the color palette of the Goa Brain Caftan. The flattering, multi-striped fabric in pink, blue, and orange gives this maxi caftan an artistic flair. And with open three-quarters length sleeves and buttons down the front, there are several ways to wear this statement dress.
Take it to the beach and wear your favorite designer swimsuit. The Blue Grey Dune Tri Top Bikini echoes the caftan’s color palette when worn underneath. And for a one-piece option, the Firenze Lila One Piece edges the color line between pink and orange as a complementary color rather than an exact match, creating a fresh and modern style. As a swimsuit cover-up, leave the buttons undone and slip on a pair of flip flops and a beach hat for the ultimate daytime look.
However, you can also wear this over a slip dress or a fitted t-shirt and jeans to take the look into fall. The gold Tulip Earrings and additional stackable gold rings are a nice final touch to bring the whole look together. With a standout color pattern like this, the rest of the accessories can be kept to a minimum, but either way, feel free to enjoy the style all year long.
Embroidery Pamela Caftan
The soft white color and delicate embroidery elevates the look of an otherwise standard caftan dress. It’s all about the details with the Embroidery Pamela Caftan. The cinched waist, flattering side slits, and loose-fitting short sleeves adds a modern twist to a classic style.
It’s a gorgeous maxi caftan dress, well-suited for any occasion. Match your swimsuit to the caftan and go for a chic, all-white look or mix it up by adding in a burst of color with a neon or floral bikini. Then, add height to the look with sand-colored wedges or straw espadrilles. Or if you prefer flats, wear gold gladiator sandals to emulate the Grecian-inspired trend.
For added style, an armful of bangles or layering necklaces work well. Metallics, gemstones, or global-inspired jewelry all work well when working the blank slate of white. Wear the look for a day at the spa or for shopping at a seaside village while on vacation. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, the look is effortlessly chic and a go-to for anything.
Embrace the Versatility of the Caftan Dress
Wearing a caftan dress instantly elicits the feeling of a vacation somewhere warm and sunny. However, it doesn’t have to be relegated to a cover up alone. It can be worn as a chic alternative to a t-shirt and shorts. The lightweight nature of the look keeps things cool while the design aspect makes it feel more polished. If your vacation is planned during a cooler season, check out our blog to learn more about how to wear dresses in the winter.
Experiment with different colors, fabrics, and designs to add variety and versatility to your wardrobe. Find a fit that’s flattering to your silhouette, and see how simply switching out shoes and jewelry can change an entire aesthetic. The caftan has been around for ages, so it’s safe to say the fashion trend is here to stay. It’s evolved rather than become outdated, which means there’s always a way to make the look feel modern again and work for you. Ready to elevate your wardrobe with a new dress style? Check out our blog on What is a Slip Dress? and our guide on how to style a slip dress to learn more.