Monday, August 13, 2012

FT Weekend: Cool kaftans

Swimwear: Cool kaftans
By Julie Earle Levine
July 27, 2012

The swimmers on the starting blocks in London may not have to worry about what to wear when out of the pool but for the rest of us, the question of what to put on top of your bathing suit when on holiday can be as traumatic as any time trial.

“I see girls in gym shorts, or cotton dresses. They just look uncomfortable and hot,” says Marie France Van Damme, a fiftysomething designer who entered the what-to-wear race eight months ago when she launched a collection of mostly black-and-white kaftans and sarongs in sheer chiffons. “Not everyone has a fantastic body,” she says. “I think it is so much sexier to hide.”

She admits sarongs (from $280) are her worst sellers because many women do not know how to wear them (she recommends halter style at the neck, with big necklaces on top), but says kaftans ($400) are simpler and suit all body types. She claims one of her kaftans, for example, works on both herself at 5ft 2in and a friend who is over 6ft.

Van Damme suggests the following three ways for a sarong and kaftan to carry you from the beach to lunch and dinner.

1. Wear a one-piece, strapless metallic bathing suit and kaftan to the beach. At the beach, swap the kaftan for a sarong, tied around the waist. “When I go near the water, I take off my sarong and put it over my head, turban style,” Van Damme says (that way you have cover immediately on leaving the water and are not scrambling for a towel).

2. For lunch, wear swimsuit and sarong, halter neck-style, accessorising with necklaces or armfuls of metallic shiny bangles. Van Damme says no heels at lunch – barefoot is best.

3. In the evening, bring back the kaftan. Van Damme wears hers with a long camisole, so it is not as transparent. At night, high heels are an option.