On Caftans and Muumuus

Here is the most elegant and beautiful Isabella Rossellini, ya’ll, who has gotten quite voluptuous in her dotage. Look at her. She’s all beaming and round-faced because she’s not really modeling any more and she’s eating butter and drinking Merseault in places like Gstaad and Biarritz. She’s Isabella Rossellini. She doesn’t care if she’s got avoirdupois. She is eternally gorgeous.


There’s a lot that works here: the big smile, the classic red lips, the colorful beads, the creative, flowing garb.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more that doesn’t work here:
the hideous color of the caftan (she can sort of get away with it but I doubt you can, and I certainly can’t), the hacked-at hair with no movement and no shine or discernible style to it, the sneakers (ack! sneakers!?). And it’s too bad she’s dragging around that white bedspread; she looks like a first-grader heading to her first sleepover.

The caftan, ideal for hiding a multitude of sins, should ideally be about mid-thigh, and she should have beautifully flowing pants on underneath, and maybe a boot with a heel. Unless she’s been on a flight all day, in which case the dressed up sneakers might be temporarily forgiveable.

I understand that the caftan is a traditional Indian garment, or at least I think it is. And I respect that. However, she still looks like she’s swimming in it and it’s just not flattering.

The way to redeem this look would be to do something with the hair (like grow it to balance out the chipmunk cheeks), cut about half the caftan off, put on a more appropriate shoe, and stay away from mustard yellow.

She’d still do a lot better if she wore a fitted jacket or tunic and created the funky ethnic look she seems to be after with lots and lots of beads and a turban. She could absolutely tear it up in a turban.

If you want to see a really cute caftan look, check out Gwen Stefani at nine months pregnant (and I’m referring to the far left photo in particular):

cute caftan

Thanks to Go Fug Yourself for the photo.

7 Replies to “On Caftans and Muumuus”

  1. I don’t like the beads with that collar.

    Also, it would be better if the sleeves had more of an angle to them.

    I’m not sure if she’s wearing a caftan (which is arab or african, I believe) or a shalwar khamise, which is popular in india, afghanistan, etc. As a caftan, the length makes sense to me, but as a shalwar khamise, it’s really too long.

    I agree with you about the hair. I’m not sure how much of it she has, though.

    I like the shoes! So colorful!

  2. Ah, PeaceBang, I’m afraid I will have to scold you. Poo-pooing a long caftan (or like garment) after pimping an alb for summer liturgical ware?! I’m tsk-tsking as I type.

    I don’t like albs as outerware because (1) the’re litugical innerware despite what some people selling them say, and (2) I think they flatter nobody, except perhaps a tall and pencil-thin cleric.

    I know ministers like them because they aren’t too expensive and they are light and easy to care for. But I’ll be sharing my thoughts about albs and summer ware at my blog.

    Sorry — it has to be tough love on this.

  3. I stand chastened, and can’t wait to see what you write on your blog. Get on it, GarbMaster.

  4. PeaceBang, as you may already know, you have become one of my blogging heroes. As such I humbly make the following two requests:

    First, I am coming to Boston for a meeting the week of July 10. While I do have some anxiety about what I might wear if I were granted the occasion of a personal audience with you, I find my groupie tendencies win out over any anxiety I feel. Might I buy you coffee sometime during that week so that we might confer in person about the deeper meaning of fashion and the forward-thinking cleric?

    Secondly, it is my sacred tradition to spend a few hours at the spa whenever I go out of town. Might you have a fabulous spa recommendation in the Boston area?

    Many thanks, O Great One, and I do so agree with you about the sheer summer hose issue.


  5. PB,
    Here’s a question I’ve been stewing over since reading this (and other recent) posts re: muumuus, caftans, Hawaiian Shirts, etc. I think a muumuu or Hawaiian shirt is great if you’re Hawaiian. Otherwise it has an inauthentic tinge to it. Clothes associated with a culture other than one’s own have the potential to look very out-of-place on one’s body.

    For me, this begs the question: What is “good etiquitte” regarding wearing clothes associated with cultures and ethnicities other than one’s own? Like a white non-Latina non-Spanish speaking minister who wears a Guatemalan woven dress (and hasn’t been to Guatemala), or a non-Indian wearing a salwar khamise to a professional meeting.

    I think some issues that need to be taken into account are one’s relationship to a culture and the context in which the clothing item was received/acquired. Also, to be frank, whether the wearer is “posing”–trying to appropriate some of the “vibe” or stereotypes about a culture into their own vibe.

    Personally, I’ve sometimes felt like a poser when I’ve worn clothes associated with ethnicities other than my own (I can legitimately claim Jewish, Scottish, and English ethnic clothes. Yay for grandmotherly head scarves, riding pants, and tartans!) What do you and others think and feel about this issue?

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