Every summer, I operate a two-tier kaftan system: cotton versions that go over a wet bikini on the beach (try Boden and Zara for these), which get softer and better with age, and the poshed-up kaftan dress for an easy, elegant everyday outfit. Think wafting around holiday markets, putting one on for a passeggiata and wearing to work during a British heatwave. As with pyjama dressing, kaftan dressing takes a relaxed, decadent approach to daywear but is not the same as going out in your actual pyjamas/beachwear. No one wants that. Extra bonus points, then, to the multitasking frock that works just as well in the Mediterranean as on the Metropolitan line.
The kaftan dress is also the perfect, faff-free solution to the Post Holiday Dilemma (PHD) – or, what to wear when you’re back in town but your brain is still in Skiathos. Is it a dress or is it a cover-up? If it makes getting dressed in the morning easier, who really cares? The key is to find one in a substantial fabric – none of your flimsy, flyaway nonsense. Professional standards and all that – you don’t want anyone in the office to see your pants.
When it comes to the PHD dress, natural fabrics such as heavyweight linen and cotton poplin are always a good option. Toast is a great place to look for a cosmopolitan cover-up. Check out the midnight blue, cotton-twill kaftan that is currently less than half price, the black/parchment patterned Ikat kaftan dress and the ecru/charcoal textured stripe smock dress.
Olive’s shirt dresses could go from sightseeing to business meeting; the red-checked cotton style has an easy-breezy vibe, while the linen button-down version looks like it’s not going to wilt halfway through the working day. Arket is the home of monastic, pared-down style with the relaxed silk dress and the cotton embroidered (or plain) shirt dress being perfect for the minimalists among us.
Oysho‘s long linen shirt dress is a chic summer-holiday option that complements wide-leg trousers when you’re back home. Plus, it comes in at under £40.
My kaftan system does not have a premier league; there is a “more sense than euros” limit to the price I’ll pay. Although the fashion crowd are all over Vita Kin’s artisanal embroidery, Dodo Bar Or’s striped, tasselled frocks, Asceno’s deckchair striped, shirt dress (the one that keeps popping up on Instagram) and Pippa Holt’s lovely, striped-cotton dresses (and, admittedly, they are all gorgeous) – when a kaftan is the same price as an actual holiday, I know which I’d prefer. Last year, I upgraded to a beautiful, charcoal grey linen number from Yume Living (a brand I found on Etsy). At £150, the Jeff kaftan wasn’t cheap, but then it doesn’t live in my holiday box for 50 weeks of the year. I’ve worn it around town, to festivals and it’s always a great “throw on and go” option for that all-important “business coffee”. Just add a pair of doorknocker earrings and flat leather sandals to take the look from holiday to home again.