Friday, May 20, 2016

Chic Caftans by Carla Christoph

For thousands of years, the elegance and comfort of the caftan has been impossible to deny. In fact, the caftan (or kaftan) has roots all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. But it wasn't until the 1960s that they came into mainstream western fashion. Style icons including Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, and Barbara Hutton helped popularize the caftan. Designers such as Pucci, Yves St. Laurent, and Halston crafted chic creations for these stars and socialites, and the caftan quickly became synonymous with a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle. Today, I am happy to say, caftans are enjoying a resurgence. Therefore I have asked my favorite caftan designer, Houston-based Carla Christoph, to join us today for a Q&A on these fabulous frocks...  and a special treat!

Grace Kelly

In 2011 Carla became obsessed with caftans. "Every woman should own at least one in her wardrobe," she says. She finds them perfect for all occasions and any body type. Carla loves caftans so much, she wears one every day! Her more elaborate caftans are great for weddings, black tie events, and cocktail and dinner parties. The casual caftans can go anywhere. She also now is designing gorgeous tops and tunics. Carla prides herself on one of a kind caftans, never duplicating, unless it is going to another city.

Carla Christoph

Q: What originally piqued your interest in caftans, and how did you begin your business? 

A:  Five years ago I had a few weddings to attend and some black tie events. I looked in my closet to think about what I might want to wear. I owned four kaftans and thought how comfortable they are to wear. I really don't like showing my upper arms these days, and every time I went to shop for a party dress, everything was sleeveless.  It was at this moment I decided to design three caftans for these events.  After being stopped by numerous people at every event, I thought "maybe I have something here." I decided to design 24 pieces and have a show at my home.  I nearly sold out of them and have never looked back.  In the beginning it was just my long caftans, but now I do short dress length and tops/tunics.

Q: Where do you find your greatest source of inspiration?

A:  My inspiration always comes from my fabrics and trims.  I do follow colors and trends each season.  I might look for certain colors or change up my designs accordingly.  For instance, this season I am doing some kaftans with exposed shoulders.  I will say I have a very good sense of visualization of the end product and have always gone with my gut.  It has yet to disappoint me!

Pat Altschul wearing her Carla Christoph caftan. 

Q: Who are your favorite fashion icons, and is there a time period that particularly appeals to you style wise? 

A: Fashion Icons: I have loved fashion since I was a child.  I used to look at every catalog that came to the house when I was young.  I remember sitting in a chair with my sister and looking at each page. We would ask each other, "If you could have either dress on either page, which one would you get?" There are many fashion icons but to name some would have to be, Diana Vreeland, Talitha Getty, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Hutton, Grace Kelly.  Is there a time period that appeals to me in fashion, heck no!  I love it all!

Elizabeth Taylor 

Q: What are your favorite accessories to complement a caftan? 

A:  Jewels, jewels, and more jewels.  I have been an avid collector of costume jewelry for many, many years.  I really love big and bold pieces with my kaftans.  That's not to say you have to wear it that way, that's just me.  Because my evening kaftans are more elaborate with pretty neck pieces, really all you need is a pretty chandelier earring and a great shoe or sandal.

Q: Why do you think caftans are currently experiencing such a resurgence? 

A:  Kaftans have been around forever but certainly since the 60's here in the United States. I think every woman should own at least one.  I believe there has been a  resurgence in the last couple of years because of how comfortable they are to wear.  As most women get older they don't want to show there upper arms or they my have a little tummy and the kaftans takes care of all those issues yet you still look very glamorous. The big major designers have always had a kaftan or two in their Resort or Spring line but now seem to be doing more.

Lee Radizwill 

Q: I love that you wear a caftan every day! Walk me through a few examples of what type of caftan you select for various occasions from a casual to formal. 

A:  Because I am now in the business of selling kaftans, I do wear one everyday!  It starts first thing in the morning, instead of a robe I wear the softest of fabrics like modal knits. For daytime, depending on the weather, you may find me in a pair of skinny jeans and one of my kaftan tops or a great jersey or linen for the hot summer months.  In the cooler months, I wear boots with my warmer weather fabrics and a poncho or wrap that I design.  My favorite to wear and design is still the classic long kaftan.  I wear my casual long out to lunch and dinner and the more dramatic to black-tie events, weddings.  All styles go with me when I'm traveling as they pack wonderfully and don't take up much space, leaving me room to bring more shoes and accessories!

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in purchasing their first caftan? 

A:  Advice for owning their first kaftan would be to "Just go for it!"  I would suggest getting a classic long style and choosing either a casual or dressy depending on lifestyle.  The best way to explain wearing one is that you feel very exotic, glamorous and you definitely will stand out in a crowd. Owner beware, you MUST be confident!  They are perfect for resorts, cruises, dinner parties or even a backyard pool party. For all those shorter women who think they can't wear a long kaftan, I say "nonsense!" It is just a matter of getting your proportions right.  I can't begin to tell you how many customers started with just one piece and now they say "You should see my closet, I have a whole Carla section."

Q: Each of your caftans is truly a work of art, customized to accentuate its owner. How do you go about creating a perfectly personalized caftan? 

A:  Creating each kaftan is like a piece of artwork.  I really enjoy designing my kaftans and am happy when a customer finds just the right piece for them. I have designed many kaftans for mothers of the bride, mothers of the groom, and even mothers to be for their special baby shower.  If a customer doesn't see one that is currently available then I start by asking what colors they like.  Then I will suggest certain fabrics from my studio that I think will work for the occasion.  I then finish with showing the customer possible trims or elaborate neck pieces.  A lot of my beautiful trims come from India.  I do not buy fabrics in bulk.  I do one of a kind kaftans so you never have to worry about running into yourself at a party, and they are all custom fit to the clients measurements.

My Carla Christoph custom caftan! 

Q: When you aren’t busy making caftans, what are your favorite hobbies and activities? 

A:  I love to cook.  Sunday nights is always Mexican food.  I will make either my homemade pork carnitas or chicken enchiladas with my guacamole and green tomatillo sauce.  Always a big crowd pleaser! Another hobby of mine is going to consignments shops and flea markets.  There is nothing more wonderful then "being on the hunt."  I do love to travel and I use to have a mean game of tennis until my business took over my life.  However no complaints, I love every minute of it!

Princess Grace in a Pucci silk caftan, 1972

Thank you Carla, for all of your wonderful insight! Carla's caftans are so comfortable and addictive that I am tempted to wear one every day myself. And now is the time to stock up, as Carla is offering a treat of 20% off beginning now through Friday, May 27. Prices range depending on fabric and trim, with long caftans generally $350 - $400, short dresses from $190 - $250, and tops from $140 - $225. Please visit Carla Christoph and use code "GetGlam" to begin your custom caftan today! 

Use code "GetGlam" for 20% off all Carla Christoph caftans now through May 27!


  1. Andrea!
    You look so fab in your Carla C Caftan! I just bought one from another vendor as a gift for a friend, who just happens to be from the South of France. Caftans symbolize chic and glamorous living- I saw one in a multi-color silk chiffon at Saks and loved it, but the price as a bit scary, can't recall who the designer was, but I would say the quality of the fabric is most important for any article of clothing. LOVE the idea of oversized jewels and chandelier earrings too!

  2. Very chic! Just gorgeous....and of course I think of Pat whenever I see one:)


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