Published on in March 30, 2018

What is a kaftan, really? In what garment “box” should we put it? Dresses? Outerwear? Formal? Casual? Even the Moroccan that I am, can get confused at times. However, one thing I know for sure, is that I am “Caftan with a “K” team”, all the way. Ka – Ka – Ka – Kaftan!
So, now that we have settled the spelling part of this predicament, let’s move to the real deal.

Wanting to give you the most accurate definition of a kaftan, I was quite stunned at the contradicting results I found. “A long, loose piece of clothing with wide sleeves, of the type worn in Western Asia” Cambridge dictionary. “A long coat-like garment, usually worn with a belt and made of rich fabric, worn in the East. An imitation of this, worn, especially by women, in the West, consisting of a loose dress with long wide sleeves” Collins dictionary. “Man’s full-length garment of ancient Mesopotamian origin, worn throughout the Middle East. It is usually made of cotton or silk or a combination of the two” Encyclopedia Britannica.

Now, I’m no scholar, but I grew up wearing, and observing the incredible women who shaped my life dressed on what I know, or have been told is a Kaftan. It can be loose, as it can be singed in, it can be conservative, as it can be sexy. It can be made from silk or cotton, or even brocade, or so many more fabrics that my non-tailor self could comprehend. It can be belted, as it can be “free-flowing”. The kaftan is more than clothes, it’s culture, it’s tradition, it’s an expression of the Moroccan woman.

In that sense, in Morocco, which may I emphasize is the land of kaftans I believe; just ask Yves Saint Laurent (or his spirit), when a woman wants to dress traditionally, she mostly has three options.

If it is to go outdoors, in public for whatever random and casual reason, she goes for the “Djellaba”. A loose long dress, that has a hood, which once some women used to cover their heads.

Option two is the Takchita. It’s a formal dress that comes in two pieces (or more), and it’s belted. This one is opted for, when a lady wants to go all out glamorous, and is to be worn in very special occasions; mostly weddings.

Final option, is the star of the day; the kaftan. And the kaftan is a mix of both the former options. When not belted, and made from simple fabrics, the kaftan can replace the Djellaba, or be worn in small celebrations, such as religious holidays. However, the kaftan can also be extremely fancy, when made of special materials, is belted, and even has a train. And in this case, it can compete with the Takchita with its glamour quotient.

Nevertheless, nowadays the kaftan has broken from its “traditional wear” chains, and has become more democratized. I don’t know if it is thanks to Western fashion designers, or street style aficionados who went all out lately with light layering with kimonos and open kaftans. Or if it is due to the ethnic touch becoming such a hot commodity in the world of fashion and styling. But, the kaftan has never been more “In”. Yves Saint Laurent would be proud.

So at the end of it, does it really matter what a kaftan is? All one needs to know, is that kaftans are really pretty. Oh, and they are Moroccan! Period.

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