Retro Caftans Are The Summer Staple You Didn’t Know You Needed

The vintage style is everywhere.

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While the early aughts may have dominated those initial post-lockdown years, the past six months has seen the year eclipsed by the swinging ‘60s. Call it the pop culture effect as buzzy period series like Capote Vs. The Swans and Palm Royale have infiltrated the fashion trend cycle, putting retro styles and silhouettes back on the map. The most recent example of this is the meteoric rise of the once-tacky caftan, which is experiencing a revival of sorts thanks to the aforementioned latter Apple TV + series starring Kristen Wiig and Alison Janney. Set in a 1969 Palm Beach, Florida, the vibrant show features costumes (designed and sourced by Alix Friedberg) as colorful as the characters, with long patterned tunics serving as a honorary cast member.

Since its debut in March 2024, the Palm Royale effect has certainly hit retailers, with Trendalytics reporting a 30% expansion in merchandising of the breezy retro piece and 46% more caftans available on the market year over year. Once considered a beach-side favored cover-up of mothers and aunties, the flowing dress is now officially en vogue with brands like Pucci, Dries Van Noten, Taller Marmo, and Missoni leading the charge.

To be clear, the caftan’s presence in fashion extends long before the 20th century. In fact, the tunic-robe hybrid dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, where sultans and royalty were said to wear the elaborately patterned garb as a symbol of power and rank. The garb was then adopted by societies across Southwest Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that the caftan took over America, with designers like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga embracing the look after pulling inspiration from fashions in Morocco and Turkey. Iconic fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who was a caftan devotee, once described the dress as “fashionable for the beautiful people.”

Apple TV+

While the upcoming summer season offers a prime time for the caftan to really work its magic, designers say the piece’s elegance surpasses beachy settings. “Caftans have become the epitome of effortless elegance and versatility in recent years,” says Erika Peña, founder of the eponymous fashion label. “Their flowing silhouettes and luxurious fabrics offer a perfect blend of comfort and style, making them a go-to choice for women seeking a chic yet relaxed look. The rise of caftans can be attributed to their ability to seamlessly transition from beachwear to sophisticated evening attire, catering to the modern woman's desire for adaptable fashion that keeps pace with her dynamic lifestyle."

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Designer Louise Misha seconds this notion of versatility, pointing to the caftan’s ability to strike a balance of both comfort and femininity. "It's a piece that can be worn in many different ways: open over jeans or open over a swimsuit, belted or not, buttoned or unbuttoned,” she says. “Caftans can be worn with heels to make it dressier, or sandals for vacations.”

If you, like everyone else, are ready to embrace the ultra-retro look, shop TZR’s go-to picks of the moment below.