Monday, February 9, 2009

The Caftan, Part I

I went ahead and put the gomlek to the side for tonight and started working on my caftan. Don't worry, I will get back to the gomlek tomorrow (it's almost finished!!), but I couldn't wait to start working on my green striped caftan.

Caftan Overview:
The caftan is basically a slightly larger version of the entari, worn as an overcoat. According to Neefa bint Durr, caftans were usually made of silks or brocades and lined with cotton in a contrasting color with silk facings (unless it was a summer caftan in which case it would not be lined, but would still have the facing). Winter caftan were often lined with fur.

Caftans could be made with or without a standing collar or were the same as an entari -- small and round or very slightly v-necked. They had large gores on both sides and in the front.

From the pictures of extant caftan I have seen, the sleeves were usually short, but some have detachable sleeves. The short sleeves often had a crescent-shaped cutout in front for ease of bending the arm (you can see this quite well in the picture above). In some cases it appears there was a gusset in the underarm, but I don't believe it was always done this way.

Closures consisted of long bands, known as "frogging," across the chest. In her article Making a 16th Century Turkish Coat, Neefa bint Durr states that buttonholes through the fabric were not used. She also says that the frogging was made with the same general colors of the fabric (but usually no more than three different colors), sometimes with geometric designs which were made by either fingerloop weaving or card/tablet weaving. Frogging went from the neck to waist, loops on left, buttons on right. (To see these closures in excellent detail, please visit the Sackler website, choose "View the Robes in Detail" and click on the fourth thumbnail from the bottom. Moving your cursor over the picture will allow you to explore an extant caftan!)

My Caftan:
About a year ago I acquired this beautiful green striped curtain fabric (on the right in the picture) at a sewing party. My friend Adena had it but didn't know what she would use it for, so I purchased the whole bolt from her for $15. I think I came away with 6 or 7 yards, so I feel like I got a great deal. Had I bought it from a store it would have been at least twice that.

The instant this fabric met my hands it whispered to me that it wanted to be a caftan. Always one to listen to my fabrics, I held off on cutting it until I really understood the process. I used the aforementioned article Making a 16th Century Turkish Coat by Neefa bint Durr to work out the measurements. (I would love to link you to her article, but you must be a member of SCA_Turkish_Personas_Moderated to view it. If you join, look in the Files section for Turkish Coats PDF.pdf.)

Now, according to many, many sources on the web, striped fabrics were favored for children's clothing and clothing for the poor because they were easily made and, therefore, cheap. Living in the harem my persona probably would not have worn stripes, but I must make a concession for this particular fabric as the mundane me loves stripes and wears them often.

I have cut the fabric with the stripes going vertically down the body piece, diagonally on the gores and horizontally on the sleeves. This may sound hideous, but it will all come together, I assure you. Due to the fact that coats were often cut without regard to pattern continuation, I'm not too worried about the stripe directions.

I don't think I will line the coat as the fabric is already going to be rather warm, but I will use a contrasting facing (if I can figure out just how to do that).

I will not be using a collar, but instead a slight v-shaped neckline.

My fingerloop braiding skills aren't good enough for making the frogging, so I will use either thin tablet woven bands or kumihimo braids. I will be doing thread covered wooden beads for the buttons.

Anyway, check back often as this project is about to kick into high gear!!

Other Links of Interest with Regard to Kaftans:

Hurayrah's Passably-Period Caftan (instructions begin on page 9)
Dick Osseman's website

Photo Credits:
- Orange/red caftan belonging to Selim I, circa 16th century: Topkapi Palace Museum
- Fabrics: Me

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