From cover-up to mini-caftan

Whether we like it or not, work tends to have a major influence on how we dress. But it wasn’t my part-time office gig that inspired today’s DIY – rather, it was a story my editor there asked me to write that got me thinking about this little project.


The story is about caftans. Being a fan of ethnic dress, fashion and retro images, it wasn’t exactly a hardship for me to spend several days looking through photos of glamorous people in caftans and reading about how the garment has evolved over thousands of years – or rather, how it hasn’t, but you can read more when the story is out (I’ll put the link up on my Facebook page).  As it just so happened, I had a real live caftan sitting in the DIY equivalent of an inbox* just waiting for a makeover, so this story came at the right time.


Like the Modular Miyake from my last post, this was a gift from Tetsuko’s mum, who was once an airline stewardess and so has quite a collection of exotic textiles and clothing. This piece was given to her in the ’70s and although it looks middle eastern, I’m fairly sure she said it was from somewhere in London – I’d guess a hippie kind of market. There are no tags on the caftan so I’m not sure where it was made, but I have a similarly printed top that I bought in Malaysia, so it’s possibly of Asian origin.

As it was a full-length caftan there was plenty of fabric to play with, and no end to the refashioning options, but after much deliberation I chopped off the top half (it will make an appearance in later posts, so stay tuned)…


… unpicked along the sides to create arm openings and sewed shoulder seams where the (poorly drawn) pink lines are…


… cut out a neck opening which is hard to see in this shot as the print is the same at the front and back, but essentially I removed the red circle at the front and cut a shallow curve into it at the back …


… and bound the edges of the neck and armholes with bias binding.


I used red around the neck and yellow around the armholes simply to use up odd bits and pieces (I still have a LOT of bias binding in my stash!). DSC_3937

It was a hideously gusty day when I took these photos but the wind machine effect helps to show you the A-line shape of the finished garment. As you can see, it would suit expectant ladies quite well!


It has plenty of room in the back too – in more flattering circumstances it sits quite sedately and has a subtle cape or sack-back effect.xkaftan16We’ve been having so many hot, sticky days in Melbourne and there are no doubt more to come, so this mini-caftan is going to be on high rotation (it’s cotton and it’s printed, so it’s perfect for the heat). It looks fine without the heels and bling too so will be perfect for a day at the beach!


I was surprised at how well this turned out because there are no darts and yet it sits in a very flattering way. Despite my already heaving wardrobe I’m quite tempted to make a few more of these dresses (from scratch) in various fabrics – plain black silk or cotton, denim, bright pink raw silk for fancy events etc. If you’d like me to put the measurements up so that you can draft your own, let me know.

*ie a messy pile of fabric and secondhand clothes on my bedroom floor.