A Heartbreaking Kaftan of Staggering Genius

Silk Kaftan

It’s been a helluva week. My washing machine finally died on me, though I have a fantastic laundry bag to take to the launderette…


I completed my fourth working week in the new job (yay, me!) and I launched a writers’ retreat in rural Kent. (If you write children’s or YA fiction, want to pretend you’re on the set of Downton Abbey, and hear me jaw on about publishing, you should totally book a place!)

Oh, and Ella celebrated her first birthday! She totally let rip. I mean, totally let rip…


So, in the face of all that, how’s a girl to find her zen place? By sewing a kaftan, of course!

Simplicity 5315 kaftan pattern

Next weekend, I’m going to a 70s-themed fancy dress party. I decided to go as Elizabeth Taylor in her kaftan period and set up a Pinterest inspiration board. Elizabeth Taylor may be the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. I’m going to fall a long way short of mimicking her – but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

I sourced a vintage kaftan pattern from Etsy and popped down Walthamstow market for fabric. I was going to buy something cheap as chips and synthetic as heck, but I quickly realised that the above affordable silk was a much better option. £6 a metre from the man outside Sainsburys and a joy to work with.

This thing’s a monster! It swallows up a whole four metres. (Though I just had enough scraps left to make myself a fifth pair of Amerson pants.)

Kaftan Width

If I’m honest, I’d expected this to be a bit of a drag to make. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I totally adored the process. It helped a lot that I already knew to cut out my silk with it pinned to paper. Cutting out was an experience! The main body of the dress is made from two mahoosive pieces.

I was intrigued by how a kaftan comes together and really enjoyed the learning experience. I added some extra stitching at the base of the V neckline because that takes quite a lot of strain. There’s a totally unnecessary but cute button closure at the back of the neck.

Button Closure

Ten out of ten to this marvellous pattern! I’m not sure what I’ll do with this dress once the party is over. Cut it up to use on other makes? Or save for other fancy dress parties?

I have my wig, my jewellery and my false eyelashes. I need to practice pencilling in those remarkable eyebrows. I think that’s everything. You want to see me in my wig? I don’t know. Any Richard Burton types out there might stumble across my blog and fall passionately in love, showering me with diamonds the size of doughnuts. I’m not sure I can risk that. Oh, go on, then…

Wearing WigYup. Richard Burton would totally ask me to marry him twice.

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85 Responses to A Heartbreaking Kaftan of Staggering Genius

  1. Kay says:

    It is so pretty. I love it.

  2. lauriesannie says:

    If there are prizes at the party you will totally win! I love your fabric. Re-purposing is a great idea.

  3. rachsews says:

    Love it – fabulous fabric (and a great wig!). After the party I would be tempted to chop it to knee length and just wear it as a dress (though I can see getting a coat over the top might be problematic).
    Love the book for which it is named, too. Might just have to dig it out for a re-read.

  4. Katie M says:

    You don’t need to repurpose this one. Just call it a maxi-dress and you’re set for next summer.

  5. Becky says:

    I am a kaftan freak. I own several, and they are the most comfortable, yet elegant, “home clothes” EVAH! I think you should wear this around the house for a while before you decide. I think you may learn to love it as is. You did a beautiful job on it. You look fabulous, Liz!

  6. Marianne says:

    Wouldn’t this be stylish loungewear once the party is over? You never know when that Burton type knocks on your door, better be prepared! Happy birthday Ella!

  7. Sew2pro says:

    Nice kaftan but have you got the ice ?? If yes, will you be travelling to the party under police protection (don’t take the underground)?

    Sounds like a fab party. You might need a weekend at the retreat to recover and write to us about it.

  8. Gaylene says:

    omg omg omg omg! My mother had that exact same pattern in the 70’s, and made the purple one in a purple knit……it was very ‘out there’ for a tiny Australian back water….wow, seeing that has brought back some memories!!!

  9. FabricKate says:

    It looks terrific on you. You can wear this out – no problem. Great colour and fabric – don’t change a thing. Well done.

  10. WOW = what a transformation – I could take you for LT 😉 !
    The kaftan is great as the fabric!

  11. Debbie Cook says:

    You as Liz Taylor – perfect!! I love this!

  12. Jenni says:

    Fabulous Dahling, Fabulous 😉

  13. mycrafthouse says:

    I think you could totally keep it for next summer, kaftans come and go with the years anyway, it looks really elegant – also love the wig!

  14. Stephanie says:

    I think you should keep wearing the Kaftan after the fancy dress party. It would make an excellent house dress, and who still looks glamorous at home these days. You could…

  15. Jenny says:

    Love that you bought this fab silk outside Sainsburys. I wish I lived in your area. You have got it all. I wouldn’t rush to chop it up. It is such a stylish outfit to have. Wear it at home when you are entertaining Richard.

  16. I love the caftan! Super cute with the fabric. I’d wear it to the store as is! But you may indeed want to wear it around to see if you can adopt a caftan lifestyle.

    The wig is adorable, but when I first saw you in the caftan I immediately thought turban! Turquoise turban…Oh my! Google “liz taylor turban” and you can see some gorgeous photos!

  17. RankkaApina says:

    I never really thought kaftans as something I would wear. This post makes me rethink it. Both you and Elizabeth Taylor look amazing! And the fabric is so cool and works really well.

  18. Nicola says:

    You totally rock that dress to cut it up after would be a crime I like the idea of calling it a maxi dress and wearing it next summer.

  19. tillybuttons says:

    The man outside Sainsburys has done it again. You look gorgeous in a kaftan! Who knew? Don’t repurpose it – wear it as it is. It works!

    Lovely to see you yesterday xx

  20. Ann Johnston says:

    I really love the caftan – I would keep it and wear it! It’s fabulous on you without the wig, and I predict you will have a fabulous time at the party!

  21. Julie Cruickshank says:

    I think it looks lovely and great for wearing at home. You have been busy….have fun next weekend!

  22. Stephanie says:

    You are so gorgeous and cool. I love the fabric you chose! My mom wore kaftans in the seventies, when I was little. I have so many memories (and photos) of her in them (both bought and made). She had one in a swirly pattern that she wore when my parents had cocktail parties. She also had one in maize/dull yellow colour that I have tons of photos of her in (at my first or second xmas I think), that looks an awful lot like the design on the right-hand-side of the envelope. How cool! PS (Personally though I’ve always been more intrigued by the other Richard Burton. :))

  23. Don’t chop it up after the party it is way too beautiful. Keep it
    for holidays and lounging at home with fizz and nibbles. Gorgeous x

  24. Hoosiermama says:

    What a hoot. Can’t wait to see you with your eyebrows on.

  25. Jenn C says:

    Wow, you look great in the kaftan!

  26. Nicola says:

    Love the dress. I made a retrotastic maxi at the beginning of the year for a 70’s disco. It was my favourite Summer dress and I wore it all Summer long. You can totally rock that dress everywhere, not just at a party.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    That kaftan is a stunner. You look fabulous dahlink! Great fabric. So glad you went for the silk. It will feel wonderful. Love it!!!

  28. blacklabel says:

    dont ever cut this up…float around the house in silk luxury. perfect!

  29. sewloveable says:

    You look great Liz…..excellent choice of fabric and great craftsmanship constructing the Kaftan.

  30. What great fun – and you can totally keep that as it is after the party. Though maybe not with the wig. Or the bling. Oh hell, just go for broke and wear the lot 🙂
    Happy Birthday to Ella! (I met a group of FIVE schnauzers in the forest when I was walking yesterday – all very happy!)

  31. I like the fabric. I think you should keep it as is for awhile, and then if you don’t like it refashion it.

  32. Mai says:

    This is bloody lovely and you look luscious in it! Keep it as is, please!

  33. SeeKatSew says:

    That silk is gorgeous!!

  34. This is awesome, just as great as the book you named it after!

  35. Joanne says:

    It looks amazing!!!!
    and happy birthday to Ella! maybe she wanted a cushion for her birthday!

  36. Amy says:

    Bravo! …to it all! The sewing, new job, writer’s retreat, Ella’s birthday, fantastic costume… just all of it!

  37. Adrienne says:

    That’s the most freaking fantastic dress EVER!! Am I the only one in here who thinks you could totally wear this as a regular dress!? This 70s style is totally back in style now!

  38. Joanne says:

    Simply stunning! You must wear that every day until you meet your Richard Burton. I have no doubt he’ll come running to hide in your kaftan once he sees you!

  39. After the party? Simply divine darling for evening chilling with a nice chilled vino. Or Martini to complete the look! Glorious!

  40. Sabs says:

    Marvellous darling, Dicky B would totally love you twice…

  41. gingermakes says:

    Oh my gah, this is amazing. LOVE!

  42. Angela says:

    I have to say, I love it as is! Wear it knowing you look gorgeous!

  43. gccmom says:

    I LOVE your blog! Richard Burton would be a fool not to fall for you!

  44. yosami says:

    Absolutely fabulous! You should wear this all the time! I love it!

  45. Anne-Marie says:

    You look fantastic in that kaftan; it’s such a nice style for lounging around in. Beautiful fabric too, I agree with other posts that you should keep and wear it at least until after next summer. and then decide if you want to repurpose it. You’ll be the belle of the party – have fun!.

  46. maddie says:

    Is this the caftan you were talking about during the sewcial? If so, it turned out amazing! If you lived in Elizabeth Taylor’s day, you’d knock her socks off wearing this dress. I wish I had known about this garment and party beforehand because I have a great kaftan pattern that I wouldn’t mind forking over the Atlantic for such an occasion.

    Oh, and I’m glad you could make some Amerson undies while you were at it!

  47. That’s a beautiful Kaftan. I have a habit of thinking of a Kaftan like a moo-moo, but this is so different. You don’t look like you’re trying to cover up a fat body. I think it’s sexy. Save it for an intimate evening. I don’t think going as Liz Taylor is a stretch with your dark hair and light skin. I’m thinking of going as “Prince” the next time I got to a costume party. I could pull it off when I’m slim because he’s such a tiny man..

  48. Andrea says:

    I love the fabric you have chosen. You will make a fantastic classy Liz Taylor!

  49. Gaye says:

    That is fabulous. I agree with all the other posts – don’t repurpose just wear it as is – it’s an awesome maxi.

  50. Joanne says:

    This dress is gorgeous! And bonuses to it being pleasant to sew and is comfy. If I were you I’d probably turn it into a shorter dress or a tunic to wear with trousers, kind of like one of Victory’s patterns. (Satsuki I think) have fun at the party.

  51. I love me a kaftan, Karen.. They make the most wonderful “Can’t be arsed getting dressed so am going to swan around the house” outfits. Just in case, you know, Richard Burton;s reincarnation knocks on the door collecting for charity… 😉

  52. Polly Pierce says:

    Don’t dare cut that up after the party, it’s Absolutely Fabulous dharlink…

  53. I love this dress on you. It’s not just a frock for a 70s party, it’s a keeper. The wig is awesome, but maybe keep that one in the dress-ups pile!

  54. Heather Lou says:

    Karen, I couldn’t love this more. I am obsessed with kaftans. There are so elegant AND comfortable. If you cut this up I will cry. You need to embrace the look! Keep it and wear it around the house when you want to feel Tayloresque and its an amazing thing to wear on vacation. I personally think you could wear it day to day as well….

  55. LLADYBIRD says:

    BABELY BABE. I can’t believe how awesome you look in a caftan – I thought they were one of those pieces that looks good on no one ever. Way to prove me wrong 🙂 And yes, save that sucka for when you feel like being fancy and floating around the house. So luxe!

  56. Hi, I have been reading your posts and I nominated you for a Shine On award. Thanks for sharing your creativity! I lived in kaftans last summer. They were super comfy and great to travel in.
    Here is the 411 on the nomination:

  57. LinB says:

    I still have that pattern! We bought it the month it came out, and sewed it nearly to death — only that version, though, not the other one view. We used polyester jersey knit (a new fabric for a New Age) and finally threw our garments away, long before they ever showed signs of wear. They will last for eternity in whatever landfill they ended up, I feel certain.

    My mother had at least one, I had three or four, we forced my little (4’11”) sister to wear one. The pattern came in handy when my own daughter needed a 70s costume for a school play. Makes an excellent beach cover-up.You can use it as a blanket to save you from hot sand as you bask in the sun; or use it as a picnic tablecloth. You can wear it as a changing tent — go from street wear to micro-bikini right in the parking lot, to the amazement and amusement of onlookers! (I did this more than once.) You could, I suppose, also drape it over a line and use it as a tarp for sun protection. All in all, a right useful garment.

  58. How fun…Well done Karen. I’d love to see pictures from the party…and if the guy is not into diamonds perhaps donuts would not be a bad option either 🙂

  59. Fiona M says:

    Your kafty is totally gorgeous, I think you should keep it for wearing to glamorous evening functions and red carpet events (As I’m sure you’re regularly invited to such things!)

  60. Diana says:

    OMG! I had that pattern in the 70’s or one exactly like it , made it up and wore it for years!! Yours is just beautiful! Have fun!

  61. Have a ball at your party!! You will look fabulous and break many hearts I’m sure!!

    (PS I think Audrey Hepburn is/was the most beautiful woman in the world!)

  62. EmSewCrazy says:

    I LOVE that fabric and you look gorgeous in it! What a fabulous make!

  63. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Glam-Glam-Glam ~ keep it! When you come home after a hard day, slip into a bubble bath, then into this. Sip a glass of something decadent & feel mah-veous!

  64. Sewin Love says:

    Man outside Sainsburys is a doll, as if he isn’t cheap enough a cheeky conversation and before you know it your 2 meter order is neaer to 3 meters and his selection, particularly of georgette couple of weeks ago was unbeatable. However, The Don of Walthamstow has to be the blue eyed, beautiful asian fella who sells haberdashery on the market 20p for a concealed zip!!!! BTW Kaftan utterly divine dahling!

  65. Zoe says:

    Oh my goodness I LOVE this! You look epically awesome!!!!! I really don’t think you should reuse the fabric. I can totally see you slipping into this after work some days, then swishing about enjoying a cheeky midweek cocktail! xxx

  66. Love it! And that you have matching pants. Beats Ms Taylor into a cocked hat!

  67. “Yup. Richard Burton would totally ask me to marry him twice.” – best finishing line EVER 🙂
    Plus the kaftan is lovely.

  68. Joyapple says:

    Looks fab! but will the eye brow stencilling take longer than making the kaftan! Have a great night.

  69. Liza jane says:

    Oh my gosh, I love you. If only I had some doughnut sized diamonds… Love that you made a silk kaftan for a fancy dress party. I say keep it and swan around the house in it afterwards.

  70. tabbard says:

    Fabulous. Another party, another wig and you could go as Margo from the Good Life!

  71. Soooo Liz Taylor! We need some pics of you all done up ready to party please! Love it!

  72. Sophia Autin says:

    Wow latest and trendy Caftan collection you have…

  73. Pingback: Has Sewing Helped You In Other Walks Of Life? | Did You Make That?

  74. In the 70’s when I was a teen, my mother and I and a few other women made dozens of these caftans in shiny, slinky red knit for the girls in my father’s choir to wear in concert. They looked good on every shape and we wore them for years on tour. I recognize that pattern. It’s engrained in my memory.

  75. Suzette Bangs says:

    I have just gone through my old patterns……#5315 top of the box. Made this pattern into a nursing caftan for my first child. It worked wonders putting slits in the side for nursing the baby. Plenty of material to feel elegant in and light weight. Wore this for 2 more pregnancys and 2 more nursings. Now in my 60’s gonna make another for lounging. Love your blog.

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