Caftan dress inspiration // Charlie Caftan Pattern & Kaftan Pattern // Closet Case Patterns
Closet Case Patterns, Outfit Styling

The Charlie Caftan Pattern: Inspiration & Styling

Hello caftan lovers! I never knew there were so many of you out there, but judging  by the smash success of our recent Charlie Caftan pattern, my dream of an international caftan cult is well on its way to reality.

In many ways Charlie is one of our simplest patterns. For that reason, it seemed superfluous to do a sewalong – how many of you really need posts on hemming and sewing straight seams? That said, the center panel can be a bit of a challenge to sew if you’ve never inset anything with a sharp corner before. In addition to a few posts on styling, fabric choices, and pattern modifications, we have a full post planned on how to sew a perfect inset panel, with lots of tips and tricks to get great results; that post will be coming later next week.

Today I want to talk about inspiration & styling! I had a pretty strong caftan Pinterest board going long before I decided to design a pattern for one. In the last few years the style has become increasingly popular, and I love how many directions you can take this relatively simple silhouette. Here are some of my favourite ideas.


One of the biggest trends I’m seeing in fashion right now is very simple, minimalist shapes in noble fabrics like silk and linen. The great thing about this trend is that it will basically always be stylish; what’s not to love about a billowy linen dress? To make a minimalist Charlie, choose natural fibers in solid neutrals like white, oatmeal, black and grey. Wear it with one or two pieces of clean, modern jewelry and simple flat sandals, slip-ons or espadrilles to complete this calm, confidant look.


Equally chic but with a sightly bolder approach: make your Charlie Caftan in a solid colour. Experiment with deep, vibrant tones, or soft, subtle shades depending on the mood you’re going for.


If you really want to  let your caftan flag fly, why not make one in a graphic print or stripe? I would suggest larger, overscale prints for maximum impact. A bold print can also elevate this pattern from comfy summer loungewear to something more elegant and evening ready; just throw on some comfortable heels and a little lipstick and you’re ready to party all night long.

How are you planning on styling your Charlie?


  • I love it….except for the inset panel. I think I created a few new cuss words last night while trying to get it right. The rest has been smooth sailing!

    • It can be tricky the first time! You have to be very precise. I should suggest people practice on a scrap first….

    • kellicousins

      I cheated on the inset panel and just made a sandwich that I topstitched in place. I hand-basted the holy hell out of it before sewing and properly mitered the edges of both panels so no raw edges would peek out. The results are great. Plus, since I machine stitched the hems and neckline it doesn’t look weird and wrong to have exposed stitching at the waist. Highly recommended, would 100% cheat again. In fact, I AM cheating again because I’m already 3/4 of the way through my second caftan. =)

      Edit: I’m realizing that my success depended on me not cutting out that 1/4 or 1/2 inch rectangle where the inset would go. I slashed along the bottom line of the inset rectangle (if that makes sense) and then was able to line up the bottom of the bodice and top of the skirt flush at the cut line, which makes it easier to ensure that everything goes together evenly.

      • I love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing it! With the busy repetitive fabric I used the first time, you can’t even see the panel unless I point it out, so the top stitching would also help make it pop if I use a similar fabric. And like you, I machine stitched the neckline and hems in a contrasting thread, so it wouldn’t look weird at all.

        I wore it out for the first time yesterday with my mom and had to point it out even though I’d described my fight with it. Now she wants one, so I’ll use your idea.

        • kellicousins

          Good luck!

  • I commented on Handmade by Carolyn that I wished my SF beach were warmer, I would have to make one out of fleece and wear leggings. And now I can’t quite stop thinking about that. It’s crazy, right? A sweatshirt caftan?

    • DO IT! I would delete the center panel and just do a straight up tunic.

    • kellicousins

      I was totally thinking of a boiled wool version, maybe with a ribbed turtleneck underneath when it gets really cold. My wardrobe is soon going to be all caftans all the time.