Edwardian Caftan Conversion, Part I: Inspiration

A year or two ago I happened across a post from someone who had found a vintage embroidered caftan at a secondhand store, and transformed it into a fabulous Edwardian-style dress! (Sadly, I can no longer find the post, but it was amazing) I think she basically just added a sash, and wore a lace guimpe under it– those two elements really changed the entire look, and I immediately started looking for a vintage caftan of my own to steal her idea.

Unfortunately, most of the vintage caftans I found were too tropical in style, and the embroidery was placed awkwardly for the look I was going for. Eventually, however, I found this new caftan— it’s got a vaguely nautical feel to it with the blue and white stripes, and the embroidery (while a bit modern in style) was still restrained enough to pass muster for what would be a pretty basic Edwardian-ish ensemble.

National Embroidered Caftan

I’d originally planned on just cutting down the sides to make sleeves and possibly making some pleats to allow for a full-ish skirt; but when the caftan arrived I realized that it was too short to be a dress on its own. Since I’d have to do some Frankenstein-ing, I figured I might as well have some fun with the design! I had a few inspiration fashion plates that provided ideas for various elements of the dress, but this one was probably the most influential:

1912 dress

I figured that I’d cut a kimono-sleeved bodice out of the caftan and then attach the skirt separately, adding a belt to cinch in the waist. I’d add a contrast band to the bottom (to make it long enough) and matching bands at the 3/4 length sleeves. And I liked the idea of an asymmetrical closure down the side of the skirt, though it would have to be a fake closure because I wasn’t about to cut through the bodice to continue the asymmetrical line.

After some deliberation I came up with this:

I’ll have to cut the skirt separately from the bodice and gather both to a waistband– that way I can add darts to the skirt and do the fake overlap in the front, while the actual closure will be under the arm. I admit that I’m cheating and will put in an invisible zipper there– I just don’t have the energy to do hooks and eyes or tiny snaps, particularly where a zipper will be more secure.

I see this as being a casual dress that I can wear to outdoor events that aren’t too fussy– it won’t need a ton of underpinnings, and I’m betting it’ll be easily washable. Here’s hoping it comes together easily!

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