Style debate: Kurti vs Kaftan

Nikasha Tawadey Khemka makes a case for the classic kurti while Pria Kataaria Puri roots for the utilitarian kaftan…



The classic kurti hasn’t really changed although there have been many design spin to it over the years. Monisha Jaising reinvented it in chiffon, embellishing it with diamante and Swarovski. Needless to say that the kurti has been a cool item of clothing to wear in the mid-2000s. It’s a staple and I don’t see it changing. Internationally, it’s been tweaked to morph into either a tunic or a shirt-dress, while in India, it’s been popularly worn with either a pair of churidaars or jeans. I believe that it’s a lot more wearable than a kaftan, which is more of a nightie. The kurti has two basic appeals — it could be formal or semi-formal while the kaftan falls into a grey area. Also, a kaftan doesn’t have the history and weight like that of a kurti.

Globally, the kurti is a shirt-dress with no slit on the sides and has pockets, which add to the comfort level. Its Western connotation has been more about comfort and showing off the legs and one’s figure. Usually, they like to add a belt to accent the waist. Unfortunately, the Indian market has been more confined to the A-line zone and has not been waist-driven. Personally, I wear it everyday of my life. Since I live in Singapore, I wear it as a shirt-dress with a pair of platforms or wedges. In India, I wear it with chikan kurtas and a dupatta. It keeps you cool and also covered up. In fact, it has always played a very important part of my brand and embedded into our blue print.


Kaftan has been my most successful selling product. It spells comfort and caters to everyone from — medium to large to extra large body types. The best part about it is that women don’t feel the arm hole and especially works well, when you are big busted and have chunky arms. The kaftan is glamorous and sexy and and drapes on your body. Be it a top Hollywood actress or a housewife — women change their size over the years — from their pre-marriage days to post pregnancy. In fact, I have observed that women are the fittest in their late 40s because they are done with having children and take good care of themselves and are in good shape. I have gone through the kurti phase and it has never made me feel sexy. A kaftan can be a maxi, a mini and even works as a tunic and there’s a feeling of va va voom, which a kurti can never have.

In fact, more than a kurti, I prefer a shirt-dress. I never found it comfortable because I have chunky arms and that’s why I created the kaftan, when I suffered from thyroid in the past. I was living in Kuwait and had access to the best designers but was unable to buy it. What I love about it is the fact that it can be worn in a billion ways — like a maxi, with a slit like a gown on a beach, to a lunch, a cocktail party and even at a mehendi. Even at destination weddings, 90 per cent of the time people are at a beach resort. Kaftans look great with uncut jewellery. In fact, I tie my long kaftans so many times. It’s a classic investment. The world over, it’s become an important silhouette. The now-ubiquitous floor-length capes are a version of kaftans.