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The Moroccan Caftan

A Wearable Work of Art

Kaftans(Caftans) are the most stunning item from the Moroccan wardrobe. Originating in the Ottoman Empire, they became popular in Morocco around 1500. Since then, they have become an important part of the culture, and myriad variations have evolved.

Traditionally worn by women on special occasions such as engagements and marriages (by both the bride and guests), they are long dresses made of richly colored fabrics, decorated with embroidery, pearls, and jewels, and accented with an ornamental belt. Kaftans range from elegant and simple, with minimal decoration and subtle colors, to brilliant hues with decadent accents fit for royalty.
In the past, the complexity of a woman’s kaftan was an indicator of her status, with the most sumptuous garments worn by wealthy women of high social standing. They are still worn by royalty – the queen of Morocco and other members of the royal family often wear stunningly intricate kaftans when attending special events. The wonderful thing is, anyone can try out a kaftan and feel like a princess for a night.

Moroccan Kaftan Styles

There are two basic styles, kaftans and takchitas. Kaftans are usually a single item, a long, loose-fitting dress with long sleeves. A wide belt is added so that the kaftan fits the wearer’s body well and accentuates her figure. Takchitas have two pieces, with an underpiece consisting of simple short-sleeved dress, and a more heavily decorated long-sleeved part that goes over it and is then belted like a kaftan. The outer dress stays partially open to reveal the contrasting color or designs of the under layer.
Kaftans and takchitas can be made of silk, cotton, or modern synthetic fabrics, and can be a single color, multiple solid colors or hues, or even bold patterns like flowers or paisley. Embroidery is often done with silver or gold thread for fancy styles, or with plain colored thread for simpler models.
It may consist of borders at the edges of the fabric, decorative circular or linear designs, or more complicated patterns. Sequins, rhinestones, pearls, and even real jewels may be added for sparkle.
Finally, the kaftan is paired with a belt of equal beauty – usually gold or silver in color, they can be made from braided cords or flexible metal bands. The belt is important for ensuring a proper fit and accenting the colors and detail of the kaftan.

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