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Line art drawing of a kaftan.

A kaftan or caftan ( قفطان qaftân) is a front-buttoned coat or overdress, usually reaching to the ankles, with long sleeves. It can be made of wool, cashmere, silk, or cotton, and may be worn with a sash. The caftan is of ancient Mesopotamian origin.

It is a variant of the robe or tunic, versions of which have been worn by countless cultures around the world, for thousands of years. The kaftan is associated with Islamic or Islamicate cultures. Kaftans were often worn as court robes; the splendor and specific decorations of the kaftan indicated the rank of the wearer. Sovereigns often gave ornate kaftans as a mark of favor.

Moroccan Berber kaftans[edit]

In Morocco kaftans are in general worn by women, the word kaftan in Morocco is commonly used for one piece dress and there are typical versions of Moroccan kaftans called Takshita, Djellaba, etc. They are composed of two or more pieces plus a belt. Kaftans can be worn on both casual and extremely formal occasions, depending on the materials used.

Moroccan kaftans for men exist; this dress actually was masculine in the beginning, the Almohad used kaftans as the dress for males, and many Moroccan designers nowadays have kaftans for men among their collections. They are dedicated for special celebrations like wedding ceremonies or religious festivals.

The Moroccan kaftan results from the development of medieval dresses from Morocco and Al-Andalus like the masculine dress Merlota/Melota, so kaftan-making is an old industry in Moroccan medinas of handcraft and textile production.

Persian kaftans[edit]

Persian robes of honor were commonly known as khalat or kelat.[1]

Ottoman kaftans[edit]

Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent adorned in a Kaftan of complex woven fabric.

The kaftans worn by the Ottoman sultans are preserved in one of the most splendid collections of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. Lavishly decorated kaftans were given as rewards to important dignitaries and victorious generals. The decorations—colours, patterns, ribbons, and buttons—indicated the rank of the person to whom they were presented.

From the 14th century through 17th centuries, textiles with large patterns were used. The decorative patterns on the fabrics became both smaller and brighter in the late 16th and in the 17th centuries. By the second half of the 17th century, the most precious fabrics were those with 'yollu': vertical stripes with various embroideries and small patterns, the so-called "Selimiye" fabrics.

Most fabrics manufactured in Turkey were made in Istanbul and Bursa, but some textiles came from as far away as Venice, Genoa, Persia (Iran), India and even China. Kaftans were made from velvet, aba, bürümcük (a type of crepe with a silk warp and cotton weft), canfes, çatma (a heavy silk brocade), gezi, diba (Persian دیبا), hatayi, kutnu, kemha, seraser (Persian سراسر) (brocade fabric with silk warp and gold or silver metallic thread weft),[2] serenk, zerbaft (Persian زربافت), tafta (Persian تافته). Favoured colours were indigo blue, kermes red, violet, pişmis ayva or "cooked quince", and weld yellow.

The Topkapı Museum, Istanbul, possesses a large collection of Ottoman kaftans and textiles.[3]

West African kaftans[edit]

In West Africa, a kaftan is a pullover robe. Kaftans are worn by both men and women. In West Africa, the female robe is called a kaftan, and the male robe is called the boubou or Senegalese kaftan.

Russian kaftans[edit]

In Russia the word "kaftan" is used for another type of clothing: a kind of a man's long suit with tight sleeves. By the 19th century, Russian kaftans were the most widely spread type of outer clothing among peasants and merchants. Currently they are used as a ritual religious clothing by the most conservative sect of Old Believers.

Jewish kaftan[edit]

Chassidic Jews adopted a silky robe (Bekishe) or a frock coat (kapoteh) from the garb of Slavic nobility. The term kapoteh may originate from the Spanish capote or possibly from "kaftan", via Ladino. Sephardic Jews in Ottoman or Muslim lands wore a kaftan like their neighbors. The term "Kapote" is also used in Morocco.

Southeast Asian kaftans[edit]

In South East Asia, kaftans are often worn as cool,[4] casual hot weather attire. Hand-drawn, hand-painted batik fabric [5] is often used.

Western fashion[edit]

American hippie fashions of the late 1960s and the 1970s often drew from ethnic styles, including kaftans. African-styled, kaftan-like dashikis were popular, especially among African-Americans. Street styles were appropriated by fashion designers, who marketed lavish, Moroccan-style kaftans as hostess gowns for casual at-home entertaining.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CLOTHING xxvii. lexicon of Persian clothing – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  2. ^ "Sadberk Hanim Museum". Sadberkhanimmuzesi.org.tr. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  3. ^ IstanbulNet @ www.istanbulnet.com.tr. "Topkapi Museum: collection of Turkish textiles and kaftans". Exploreturkey.com. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  4. ^ South East Asia Kaftans. Indian Art. 2014. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Azwan, Kathy. "Batik kaftans". Retrieved 23 June 2014.