Fashion’s most versatile garment is summer’s hottest style star — from a new book about caftans to luxe, must-have looks!

IMAGE CREDITS: All images are from Caftans from Classical to Camp (Vendome Press) by Cameron Silver. Images courtesy of Vendome Press.

The caftan, that loose-fitting tunic, that has garnered both ardent fans and defiant detractors is having its moment in the sun this summer, buoyed by shows such as Apple Original Series Palm Royale, a beautiful new tome by Cameron Silver released in its honor, a caftan installation at South Coast Plaza and luxe designer pieces from Oscar de la Renta and Balenciaga to Michael Kors Collection dominating spring editorials.

Arguably the world’s oldest-known garment style, the caftan gets the MVP award for most versatile. It is an effortless, size-inclusive, gender-fluid piece that has been interpreted in myriad iterations — and for myriad generations — which has made it a style star everywhere from poolside escapes to star-studded, red-carpet events.

It’s been worn by bold-faced names from Jackie Kennedy to Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace of Monaco to Yves Saint Laurent, André Leon Talley, Billy Porter and other style stars.

We have been wearing variations of caftans since the Peleolithic period so I couldn not think of a more endearing garment. I think of it as the original T-shirt in terms of its relevancy and accessibility.


Silver, the vintage expert and exuberant personlity behind LA’s renowned vintage haven Decades, is sought after for his vintage expertise, has curated a museum exhibition for MOCA and has been a go-to for celebs looking for vintage gowns on the red carpet. He has also, fittingly, had his own star turn in the Bravo reality show The Dukes of Melrose.

The caftan’s versatility and ease are the reason this iconic piece has not only endured but also remained in vogue — from the jet-setting Palm Springs and Palm Beach social set that celebrated midcentury photographer Slim Aarons exalted in his beloved society photos to the designer looks of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Emilio Pucci, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta and many more. 

This spring/summer’s glowing caftan resurgence has been spurred by the lush costuming and sets of Apple Original show Palm Royale, starring Kristen Wiig as a hilarious and crafty social climber trying to penetrate the staid society doyennes of 1960s Palm Beach. And its appeal is captivating.

“Throwing on a caftan can instantly transport you to the allure of Palm Beach or Mykonos or the capital of caftans, Morocco,” said Silver. “The most iconic fashion figures of the 20th Century through today’s influencers style their caftans from beach to music festival.”

Luxury Southern California shopping center South Coast Plaza, its own mecca for jet-setting international shoppers, will be hosting a caftan installation throughout the shopping center to celebrate the caftan and Silver’s new book. Silver will be at South Coast Plaza for a book signing at Michael Kors Collection on May 22, from 2 pm to 6 pm.

While the easy wear and versatility of the caftan have also made it fodder for detractors who see it more as a shapeless sack, Silver’s stunning coffee table book embraces all of it. It’s a love letter to the caftan and takes us on a lush and whimsical romp through the history of the caftan and its many iterations — including its fun, campier side. Think: zany ‘70s sitcom character Helen Roper of Three’s Company.

Throwing on a caftan can instantly transport you to the allure of Palm Beach or Mykonos or the capital of caftans, Morocco.


Endpapers: Caftan sketches by Stephen Sprouse for Halston, 1972-74. Courtesy of Joanne and Bradford Sprouse

Silver counters that a comb through his book will easily show the sexy side of the silhouette. His tips for modern styling?

“Today caftans can be worn from the red carpet to the Red Sea so choose one that can serve your lifestyle,” said Silver. “Caftans are the perfect foundation for jewelry so feel free to pile on the bling to personalize your caftan movement. I love a strappy sandal with a caftan to elevate the look for evening, but with a chic sandal it makes it the perfect luncheon option when the temperatures soar.”

No matter which side of Camp Caftan you land on, one thing is for sure: The world’s oldest-known garment is a modern mainstay that is not going anywhere. 

Not surprisingly, Silver has also launched his own line of caftans for men, which include caftans, thobes, bishts and kurtas in fabrics ranging from silk to cashmere to highly embellished pieces. Silver said that designers have also been making caftans for him to wear on the tour of his book launch. 

Said Silver, “I can’t wait to live in caftans all summer.” Neither can we!


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