Wearing a Caftan in The Cold: A Story of Survival

It is all you are going to want to wear


A popular question among women: What’s the one garment that never fails you?

A hypothesis on the reason for this question’s popularity: We want to figure out the answer for ourselves.

The reason hearing about what works for other women doesn’t always (often) work for us: Because we’re different fruits. Duh. And what works for an apple doesn’t necessarily work for an orange.

That, and we evolve.

Example: If I had been asked that question last year at this time, my answer would have been an old pair of Levi’s with two rips at the knee. But those jeans are no longer even in my closet. So I propose an updated series of questions — less contingent on the thing, centered more around you — to consider on the quest to determine how your clothes will make you feel good about yourself:

1. How are you feeling?

Depending on the answer here, the follow-up question will change slightly, but the gist will remain the same. For me, the current answer is: bloated, tired, kind of withdrawn. (For context, I’ve been injecting myself with a hormone for the past eight days in addition to swallowing two supplemental hormones for the past 27 days, which are both supposed to help me get pregnant.)

2. So how are you going to break out of it? (If the above answer had been, “Great!,” this question would have been, “What piece in your closet reflects this attitude?”)

With fashion, of course. The thing is, my old tricks aren’t working. The waistband on almost every single pair of pants that I own is tight. My sweaters don’t fall the way I like them to, and there are at least three dresses that have historically made me feel great that plainly don’t fit anymore. It’s like looking into a glass case that is locked with a key that I once owned but currently can’t find. And when I catch my reflection? I don’t even recognize that person.

Where it’s the most difficult, though, is in this: when the foolproof way to pick yourself up out of a slump has historically been to get up, dress up and show up, but the “dress up” portion keeps falling flat, showing up feels impossible.

Then again though, it’s 2016, and I’ve turned over a new leaf. I refuse to tolerate problems anymore and accordingly, have committed myself to being indiscriminately solutions-oriented. So when the old tricks don’t work, you come up with new tricks.

Today’s new trick is the winter caftan, which is essentially the summer caftan only sometimes rendered in velvet and sometimes spelled with a K but often, too, just layered with multiple different pieces.

In exhibit A, you’ll find that I took the layering route incorporating a pair of jeans, a wool turtleneck and a double breast printed blazer — overall an outfit that neither renders me frozen nor allows for me to sulk in a river of my own self-loathing. There are daisies on my person, for goodness sake.

 Hold up on the caftan for a second. You may recognize this jacket from when it was worn as a suit.

Muzungu Sisters caftanNatasha Zinko blazer, Tome turtleneck (similar version here), Levi’s jeans, Chanel shoes

In item 2, what you’ll see is a customized celebration of Olsen style with a pair of kitten heel mules (I love them so much but don’t ask me why because I have not intellectualized it yet), a velvet caftan and white shearling jacket. The sunglasses make no sense but that’s why they’re there. The bucket is picking up the tears I left behind in Gloomsville but only to serve as a reminder that you, my friend, are your only ticket out.

Muzungu Sisters caftan, Isa Arfen jacket (another faux fur option here), Staud bag, Manolo Blahnik shoes, Illesteva sunglasses, Céline earrings

Muzungu Sisters caftanIsa Arfen jacket (another faux fur option here), Staud bagManolo Blahnik shoesIllesteva sunglassesCéline earrings

Of course, a velvet caftan doesn’t hurt.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis


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  • Stephanie

    I love the first look! The blazer is so cute!


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  • Julia

    Yes! I relate to this 100%. I still can’t find that blasted key to my closet but im getting close. Till then im stuck sneaking shirts from my husbands bottomless bureau of programing tees. Im not fooling anyone.

  • Jackie

    Love the velvet caftan so much. And your honesty is so spectacular – I really appreciate how thoughtful your posts have been lately, and how solutions-oriented you are right now. Really resonating with me right now too as I struggle with a similar state of mind. Sending positive thoughts your way! : )


    You look amazing. I am totally in love with your style.Beautiful pics!


  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    Today when I got dressed I was wearing a pretty tight top and high waisted bottoms and I looked in the mirror and saw a pooch where I’d prefer a flat stomach to be. The hardest part of not recognizing yourself or disliking yourself in clothing is you lose your pride and confidence. It’s not even about the weight exactly, it’s about how you envision yourself and how the mirror presents you. I love your honesty in this piece and I think I’m about to invest in a caftan and maintain dignity and style rather than the sack I was thinking originally thinking about.

  • Mademoiselle Coconath

    I love how you mix the unexpected and make it look so effortlessly stylish! Great looks!


    Mademoiselle Coconath


  • Wow. Just happen to be wearing a caftan over pants today. MR symbiosis

  • Krista Anna Lewis

    Caftan like items of clothing used to be my comfort zone, until I saw one too many photos where I realized they were making me look way bigger than I was or felt. I’m the apple to your asparagus, is what I’m trying to say (I think). So stretchy high wasted items are my new feeling MERGH go to. It truly is about finding what’s suiting your fancy in those moments of feeling down.

  • Sending pregnant vibes your way xx.

  • Allison Hanna

    Day 6 of hormone shots here. The struggle is real. The estrogen has turned me into a very basic bitch…stretchy pants and big sweaters, and the occasional hormonal meltdown. It’s a kind of identity crisis…figuring out who you are without coffee and wine and with extra hormones instead. Unfortunately I’ve reverted to the boring and basic, in both attire and attitude, and I’m in need of a lift. Caftan to the rescue! Thank you for the suggestion =) Sending empathic vibes your way.

  • my closet is caftan-less and I’m suddenly painfully aware of said fact.


  • Jenny

    whatever about velvet… Your skin looks amazing!

  • Courtney Chilton

    I love the reimagination of a summer favorite. I need to apply that principal. On the vein of staples, I recently started a semi-creative grown-up job and my trusty military-esque backpack isn’t cutting it. But obviously I need to carry my life with me.
    What do you guys carry your laptops, lunches, outfit changes, etc. in??

  • Pandora Sykes

    Holy SMOKES sassy fucker! You look insane. Have the ‘zungu kaftan on my honeymoon list, it might have to happen

    • Leandra Medine

      I wish this site was called Sassy Fucker

      • Pandora Sykes

        So do I. I might refuse to return until it is

  • Dawn

    LOVE these looks–you look FAB-U-LOUS! LOVE your vulnerability–keep on keeping’ on Leandra Medine. I feel your weight gain pain. I’ve gained a bunch of weight over the past couple of years. I’m starting a fashion blog for one and all, but catering to women of a plum age. One of my posts will be, “The Vest is Your Friend” haha! That long vertical line is a great deceiver.

  • There are daisies on my person, for goodness sake

    I love this sentence. Just love it.

    (Since I love skinny jeans but cannot wear them with tight, short tops for … corporally architectural reasons, and since I also have this special need to wear dresses, I have simply combined both urges and now wear mini dresses with skinny jeans. This presents a double cause of happiness and is thus good for the winter. Who, when not we of the Man Repelling Caste, should be able to adapt our oufits to our situation?)

  • MaKenzie

    I love this- I often get frustrated with my closet, and how I want to style myself for the day. And this second look is 100% resuscitating me rn.


  • I have some stunning outfits, but they are working outfits… I have problems when going out – All my tops are from 6 or 7 years ago, when I went clubbing from Wednesday to Saturday.

    Puerto Banus Shooting, enjoy it as I did 🙂

    Bests! María

  • Adardame

    You look beautiful. I totally need a caftan.

    I’m sorry you have to take hormone pills. That sounds like no fun. I didn’t take any pills, and it took me about a year to get pregnant the first time. They make it sound like pregnancy will dive bomb you as soon as you miss a birth control pill, but really it’s a little hit or miss.

  • elpug

    The second look made me whisper “oh my god”. I am in awe of the elegance here. If The Princess Diaries came out in 2016 this is how the queen of Genovia would dress.