Just because you’re on the beach, that doesn’t mean you need to dress like a bum. Super comfy and chic, caftans are not only the perfect bathing suit cover, but they can also be easily dressed up for a night on the town.
Making your own custom caftan is a breeze. Get a breathable, cotton fabric that’s 60" wide, and measure from your shoulder down to your desired caftan length; double this measurement, adding 1/2" for the hem. Cut the fabric to the desired length, then fold in half so right sides are touching, pin the edges together, and iron down the fold. Mark the center of the fold with a fabric pencil.
Measure on yourself how wide you want the neck to be and subtract 1" from that number for hem allowance (you can always make it larger later). Mark the center of the fabric along the fold, then divide the neck measurement in half and mark that distance on the fold, on both sides of the center mark. Measure how deep you want the neck to be, subtract 1" from that number, and mark this measurement straight down from your center mark. Flip the fabric and connect the two width dots with a slightly curved line no more than 1/4" below the fold; this’ll be the back of your caftan’s neckline. Make a cut in the fold at the center mark and cut along the back of the neckline. Then cut straight down the front of your neckline, fold the fabric over (you’ll have a v-shaped neckline), and pin down. Slip the caftan over your head to check the neck size, and adjust if needed. Fold a 1/4" hem along the back of the neck hole and sew all around the neck. Trim the excess fabric from the folds, iron the seams, and attach decorative trim to the neckline. Hem the sides and bottom of the caftan 1/4". Turn the caftan inside out and pin the seams together on both sides, starting 10" down from the fold and continuing 12" down from there. Sew the side seams together between these points on both sides; the holes at the top will be for your arms.
Try your caftan on inside out and use a fabric pencil to mark the sides of your waist on the front. Making sure the marks are even with the outer edges, create a 1" vertical buttonhole over each mark, then open both with a seam ripper. Measure around your waist where the buttonholes fall, and double that number to determine your belt length. Cut a strip of fabric that length and 2" wide, adding a 1/2" seam allowance to both measurements. Fold the fabric in half along the width so the right sides are facing, then pin and iron. Sew 1/4" along the sides and down the length, leaving a 1" opening in the middle. Turn the belt right side out by pulling the ends through the hole, then handstitch the hole closed. The belt goes around your waist, through the buttonholes, and ties over the fabric in the front—it doesn’t cinch the back, so your caftan will be belted in the front, but flowing like a cape behind you. Bring on the glamour!
By Callie Watts
Photographed by Amanda Bruns
This craft appears in the June/July 2012 issue of BUST Magazine with cover girl Anna Paquin. Subscribe now.