Ready to Wear: Does anyone other than Talitha Getty actually look good in a kaftan?

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:26

Good things about the Seventies? Golden Nuggets, Marc Bolan, Fiorucci jeans. Bad things about the Seventies? Grape Nuts, The Nolans, kaftans.

If ever there was a more pointless and misguided item of clothing – specifically when designed for wear by Western women, predominantly poolside – then it's passed me by. The hope is that an unsuspecting wearer who's been persuaded to buy a kaftan by any number of glossy magazines, not to mention whimsical West London boutiques, will exude pure old-school jet-set style. While fashion clearly relies on such aspirational pipe dreams at all times, this is taking things a step too far. The reality – and it's a harsh one – is more Demis Roussos, below, (another very bad thing about the Seventies) than Talitha Getty. You have been warned.

The lifestyle that necessitates the sort of summer dressing the kaftan has come to signify is entirely redundant – recherché to the point of anachronistic. Who's got the time and money to invest in acres of beaded, embroidered, elaborately-printed lightweight material guaranteed to render them both precious and profligate in appearance anywhere but in a multimillionaire fashion designer's Moroccan retreat?

Not only that, but does anyone – other than the aforementioned fashion icon – actually look good in a kaftan? Kaftans, experts have been known to argue, hide a multitude of sins and are therefore favoured in particular by those over a size 12, say. Not true. They look like a tent on even the average-sized woman and no amount of belting and flaunting of tiny ankles will alter that. On the stick thin, meanwhile, well, they might as well wear a particularly overwrought sheet. Kaftans are too big, too long, too mannered, too wrong in every sense to be a viable option this summer or indeed any other.

So what is acceptable for wear as a cover up, as such things have come to be known? A pretty sundress is always a safe bet – preferably no longer than the knee to avoid any semblance of excess or attraction of sand. For those who find that too girlish, a lightweight button-fronted shirt dress is a more viable alter- ative, especially in black, navy or white. Finally, there's nothing wrong with the humble T-shirt, which can be oversized or shrunken.

Kaftans, on the other hand – like high heels, too much make-up and bikinis designed in fabrics that are about as water resistant as a mobile phone – are simply too try-hard. And that, we all know, is never fashionable, whatever the weather.

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