From Pucci to Pulitzer: ‘Palm Royale’ Stokes Caftan Nostalgia

​​Nothing stokes interest in period fashion quite like a hot new series and the ’60s are what’s currently dominating TV screens and, perhaps, closets.

“Feud: Capote vs. The Swans” brought forth the ladylike skirt suit as the latest incarnation of stealth wealth, and now “Palm Royale” is fueling a resurgence in the decade’s groovier side, specifically caftans.

According to data from Trendalytics, retailers expanded their merchandising for the breezy dress shape by 30 percent since “Palm Royale” debuted on Apple TV+ last month, and there are 46 percent more of them on the market compared to this time last year.

Based on Juliet McDaniel’s novel “Mr. & Mrs. American Pie,” the show stars Kristen Wiig as Maxine Dellacorte Simmons, a Chattanooga-born orphan turned Tennessee pageant queen. With unsquashable pluck and delusions of glamor, Simmons is determined to break into Palm Beach’s most exclusive country club and scheme her way to the top of its highfalutin clique.

Allison Janney in

Allison Janney in “Palm Royale,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Emmy-award winning stylist Alix Friedberg, known for her earlier projects like “Big Little Lies” and “True Detective,” sourced vintage caftans to outfit the cast, giving the bulk of them to Allison Janney, who stars as socialite Evelyn Rollins.

“The wardrobe that Alix Friedberg put together for all of us ladies on ‘Palm Royale’ was extraordinary,” Janney told WWD at the L.A. premiere. “I put on those costumes, that hair, the makeup and it was so easy to be in character because you don’t dress like that, nobody dresses like that anymore.”  

The caftan was a “revolution” when it arrived in Palm Beach at the tail end of the Mod wave, explained Friedberg, with “the introduction of synthetic [fabrics], coupled with color, pattern and loose-flowing Eastern-influenced silhouettes.”

And while sporting one with a bouffant and Twiggy-length eyelashes like the women on “Palm Royale” might be overkill, with vacation season up ahead, their retro summertime fare is hitting a nerve. “I think people are attracted to its flamboyance,” she added.

Model Isabella Rossellini walks the runway at Pucci's Spring 2024 show in Rome.

Model Isabella Rossellini walks the runway at Pucci’s spring 2024 show in Rome.

Courtesy of Pucci

Friedberg isn’t alone. Pucci earlier this month made a splash in Rome with a see-now-buy now collection based entirely around its psychedelic Vivara print from 1965. Isabella Rossellini walked the finale draped in a swirling turquoise and lavender caftan made of terry cloth. 

Other poolside staples among the Palm Beach elite like Halston and Lilly Pulitzer are resurfacing archival styles as well, but Friedberg said Italian lifestyle brand LaDoubleJ best captures the campy spirit of the show.

A caftan from Donde Esteban's debut capsule collection.

A caftan from Donde Esteban’s debut capsule collection.

Courtesy of Donde Esteban

For caftans with a more Caribbean flavor, Esteban Cortázar is offering them through a new resortwear venture Donde Estaban. “It goes perfectly with different body types and age groups,” the Colombian designer said, referring to a unisex style with a mashup of tropical motifs by his father, Valentino.

On the evening front, Milan-based Taller Marmo, a celebrity go-to for special-occasion caftans, made a Pierre Cardin-inspired capsule available this week. 

A caftan from Taller Mario's spring 2024 collection.

A caftant from Taller Marmo spring 2024.

Courtesy of Taller Marmo

The silhouette is also being immortalized in book form thanks to vintage expert Cameron Silver. His tome, “Caftans: From Classical to Camp,” charts its history from biblical origins to 21st-century turns on the Hollywood red carpet. Included are many appearances in Slim Aarons’ portraits that helped launch Palm Beach as a resortwear mecca. “Caftans are as ubiquitous there as jeans and a T-shirt,” he said, adding that Michael Kors makes some of his favorites.

Silver, who recently guest-curated the “Endless Summers” fashion exhibit on view at the Palm Beach County History Museum, is working with an Indian manufacturer on a line of made-to-order caftans to be sold in tandem with stopovers along his book tour, like at the sunny isle’s famed Colony Hotel.

The cover of ‘Caftans: From Classical to Camp.'

The cover of “Caftans: From Classical to Camp.”

Down the street, local boutique C.Orrico has been stocking versions from Trina Turk and lesser-known brands like Hale Bob and BellaTu for 40 years, “but what’s changed are the people who’re now coming in looking for it,” said co-owner Casey Orrico. She attributes an uptick in interest from out-of-towners directly to “Palm Royale.”

When styling a caftan, Orrico’s top tip is to “find your comfort threshold.” For those wary of being swallowed whole by bright patterns, opt for a solid pastel option with contrasting accessories, but “if you’re feeling it, go the Full Monty,” she joked.

As recently deceased Palm Beacher Iris Apfel said, “More is more, less is a bore.”

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