A kaftan makes the cut

Have you ever been to the Fitzroy Market? I discovered this hotbed of temptation around this time last year when I was catsitting in the area. Cue wild spending spree which included this kaftan for $5. Kaftans, like many vintage items, have something of a magnetic attraction for me. Whether it’s because (like this one) they are often handmade and hand embroidered, or because they speak of exotic travel in times past, I find it hard to pass them up. Also, I can justify their purchase because they make great beach cover-ups.

Really, though, how many beach cover-ups do I need? Unfortunately, I don’t (yet) lead the type of lifestyle in which I swan around on tropical sands every afternoon, thus necessitating a wardrobe of kaftans (I don’t even make it to suburban Melbourne beaches that often, let alone tropical locales). So I decided that this particular purchase would get more wear if I were to tailor it a bit, like so.

kaftan makeoverAlright, I suppose I should have said “tailor it a LOT”. My original plan was to create a garment that could be worn as a kaftan on the beach and then converted to wear for fancier occasions so that it was “fitted” around the waist and hips via some special system of loops, concealed fabric ties, a belt made of elastic and possibly random press studs and whatever else was lurking in my haberdashery stash. However, after much twisting, turning and tweaking of fabric in front of the mirror I realised I didn’t have the patience and it would be a lot quicker to just cut the damn thing in half to make a top and a skirt.

kaftan embroidery

I took the skirt in at the sides, added a zip in the left side seam, added darts around the waist and neatened the raw waistline where I’d chopped it away from the top section. (You may also have noticed that there were gaps in the embroidery when I bought the kaftan – I had to fill in quite a few missing stitches. And you may also observe that there is a gap in my left shin where there was formerly some flesh – I will have to stop walking into walls in the dark when I am at White Night!)

I added darts at the front and back to make the top more fitted. To give the sleeves a blousier look, I made small tucks in a few places around the cuffs and also folded the fabric over towards the cuffs, which created a bit of volume just above the elbows.

vintage kaftan refashion

Although I’m happy with the new silhouette that my tinkering has created, I’m a bit less enthusiastic about the fact that the kaftan was made from polyester cotton rather than just plain cotton. I wasn’t sure about it just by touching the fabric when I bought it, but wearing the top/skirt combo (which sits closer to the body than the original garment) I can feel that it doesn’t breathe too well – a telltale sign that synthetic fibres are present. Given how popular synthetics were in the ’70s (which is, I presume, when this garment was made), it would hardly be surprising but it’s still disappointing. If I want to get much wear out of this I will simply have to learn not to sweat!