How to make a Kaftan dress or top – FREE Pattern

Free DIY pattern to make a Kaftan - the long tunic dress which is the perfect wear be it summer or night or beach or a party - such a versatile dress.
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DIY  Caftan Top/Gown  Pattern

Kaftan is a long tunic and is one of the easiest dresses to sew – it is also rapidly gaining popularity as a very comfortable and trendy-looking garment.    

Easy to sew plus trendy means you have to make it – here is the tutorial to make your own pattern.

kaftan dress

Girls have been using caftans as a beach cover up or sleepwear or as a top over denim – they are one of the most versatile dresses around. It is the perfect dress for summer.

I regularly use Cotton to sew Kaftans and wear them as nighty and, they are so comfortable. I love the Bohemian look these gowns give me. They also make very good sundresses for your daughter.

Cotton is a favorite for sewing caftans, but you can also buy acrylics or silks. Be sure to buy matching thread and wide double-fold bias tape for finishing the neck edge. If you purchase stretch fabric, you can avoid the bias tape if you want to. Or make a facing for the neckline as detailed below..

Buy fabric with an attractive border design (on either side of the selvage edge), as this edge will show on the finished garment.

Border of a fabric

If you make this dress or top in a gorgeous material like georgette, chiffon, or silk and pair it with appropriate accessories, you can wear it for parties and functions. If you are making the kaftan in silk, check out the post on sewing with silk to avoid a lot of frustrations.

This comfortable garment can be cut as a top or as a long flowing garment. You can make use of an old Sari or a dupatta to make this or you can even sew them up in denim rayon cotton or satin. You can even use a scarf to make a scarf dress out of the kaftan pattern I will give you below. It is another great idea to sew the kaftan with a border print cloth.

If you decide to sew a caftan from start to finish it will take hardly one hour to two hours depending on your experience in sewing. If you are new to sewing, read ‘ Learn the basics of sewing‘  and 12 amazingly Easy sewing projects for beginners 

My Kaftan tutorial will make you want to make your pattern and sew it yourself.

Kaftan dress

How to make a Kaftan sewing pattern

Length – Decide how long you want the kaftan to be. Double that and  Add 3 inches to it – That is how much cloth you need to sew the Caftan dress or top.

Width – you can make a Kaftan with a cloth   44 inches and upwards. Even a 36-inch material is ok but the sleeve length will be less. Just decide how much you need the fabric to hang from your shoulder and go from there. 

Measure Bust round loosely and Divide this by ¼.

Add 1.5 inches to it.

Fold the entire length of fabric in half and iron this halfway mark. This will be your shoulder line.

Leaving it folded, fold the fabric in half again down the center front line. Now you have four thicknesses half the width of the material. If you are confused about how to cut fabric and how to fold fabric for cutting check this post on How to cut fabric before sewing.

Follow the instructions in the diagram to make the pattern markings and sew the three seams of the Caftan dress

kaftan pattern  markings

Please note that as the length of the Kaftan increases, you may have to slightly increase the C -D measure below the knee, especially if you have shaped the area of C-D between hips and bust instead of the elastic waist. This is for easy movement without the fabric getting tight near the knees.

(If you have a scarf you would like to turn into a Kaftan type top with minimal sewing check out this post on scarf outfits – for instructions to turn the scarf to a top).

scarf outfits

How to cut fabric for Kaftan sewing – The lower mark of A-K is the front neck, and A-J is the Back neckline. With the fabric pinned to secure, cut through the Back neckline first.

Then Open up the whole cloth. Fold the entire length of fabric in half, matching up the ironed shoulder lines so that the fabric lays on the table full length and half the width of the fabric.

At the center front neck mark, cut a gentle curve up to the edge of the back neck at the shoulder line through A-K.Now you have your neck opening cut out.

Try it out over your head to make sure the head opening is accurate- if not snip just a little bit more maybe 1/2 – 1″ at the neckline (Be careful that you donot make too big an opening)

Alternately decide on the neck width and neck depth of front neckline as per the table below. If you want add 1/2 – 1 inch to the neck width as the measurement in the table give a close neck. I have taken 4 inch neck width for my Kaftan. 

Chart for bust measurements from neck width and neck depth

This pattern will make a  loose kaftan. If you want a more fitted kaftan add an elastic waist as described below. Or alternatively, you can shape the upper part of the Kaftan by taking in the sides a 1/2 an inch or so But ensure that if this is a Kaftan dress you have enough looseness near the hip, thighs and knees for ease of movement. 

The hemline of a kaftan can be cut in many ways other than an as straight line as in the diagram below – I like the asymmetrical hemline a lot especially for a kaftan top. If you cut the hemline of a kaftan in a straight line, the sides will hang down, which is an attractive look. But if you do not want that effect, choose any one of the below cuts.

The hemline options for the kaftan dress

For the neck, as there is no shoulder seam it will be  different from how the regular neck patterns  are made.

For an easy neck you can just cut a boat neck ( slightly wide neckline which lies close to the neck) for the front and back and hand stitch the neck hem line or use a bias tape as an easy facing. A shell edge stitch is perfect for this finishing.

How to  add an elastic waist to the Kaftan

You have to insert the elastic before sewing the sides of the kaftan.
Wrap 1/2″ or 1/4 ” elastic around your waist. It should sit comfortable. Add another inch or two if you want a loose fit. Divide this into half and cut it to two pieces.Now you have two pieces of elastic for front pattern and back pattern.

Mark center of the two pieces.

Hand baste or pin the elastic matching the seam line with the end of the elastic and the center mark with the center fold of the patterns.

Sew in place. Then sew sides . Now you have an elasticized waist for your Kaftan.

How to finish the neckline of a caftan with bias tape

Cover the edge with double fold wide bias tape, starting and ending at the back neck. Turn under the last 1/4″ of tape and overlap at least 3/8″ for the most professional finish. If you are using a stretch fabric, the caftan neck is simple (if you have a curved neck opening).

Iron the fabric to turn under 1/2″ and then go to the sewing machine. As you sew, scoot the raw edge under the turn so that you get a 1/4″ finished turned edge.

You will need to stretch the fabric a bit at the shoulder and at the center front to make the curves lie flat.

With the fabric folded along the shoulder line, and the edges perfectly matched front and back, sew on the line you have marked from G-H. Reinforce with back stitching at each end.

You do not have to hem the side edges of the Kaftan if the selvages of the cloth you are using look neat. If they are not good, sew the edges – a rolled hemmed edge will be suitable for the sides. Hem the bottom edges and your Kaftan is ready for leisurely wear.

How to make facing for the kaftan neckline without shoulder seam


Lay the opened kaftan on a pattern paper
Trace the outline of the neckline on to the paper.

Mark shoulder line and back center and front center and front neck slit opening if any

Take the paper out and draw around the marks you have drawn leaving at least 2.5-3″ all around. Cut the facing pattern out.
The facing will look like the diagram below

kaftan facing for the neck

Cut out facing pattern from the fabric
Finish the outside edges of the facing with a zigzag stitch or overcast stitch or turn under 1/4″ and stitch around.
Pin it to the neck opening of your kaftan matching shoulder lines and center back marks ( wrong side of the facing touching the right side of the kaftan )
Sew the facing to the neckline. Trim the seam allowance by half . Give many snips at regular intervals ( 1″ interval would be ideal) on the seam allowance
Cut through the slit opening mark all the way down to that single
horizontal stitch at the bottom. ( make sure that you are very careful you donot cut open any of the stitches. )
Under stitch the seam allowance to the facing all around the neck line.
Turn the facing to the other side.

How to Finish the Kaftan neckline like a regular tunic. 

Here you have to make front neck and back neck shaped facings separately as described below. In this Kaftan, you will have a seam at the shoulder line.

Take the front bodice and Back bodice separately. For more details on using a shaped facing on the neckline checkout ” How to make patterns for facings ” or checkout the salwar kameez sewing instructions 

Mark the neckline on the facing piece. Pin the facing piece ( after edges are finished and interfacing applied) on the right side of the front bodice aligning the center line of the bodice with the center of the facing piece. Stitch through the neckline.

Cut the neckline out  with a very small seam allowance. Snip every 1″ or so along the seam allowances. This is to aid in the smooth turning of facing.

Sew the facing and cut

Press the seam allowance to the facing side. Under stitch the seam allowance and facing piece together close to the seam stitching line.

Turn the facing to the other side ( Wrong side ). Press in place

Neckline of the kaftan

Make a bias facing for the back neck.

Finish the edges of the Fabric

Other alternative ways of finishing a v neckline is discussed in the post on 6 ways of sewing a V neckline.

Join the front and back bodices at the shoulder seam as in the Salwar kameez tutorial . Do not forget to finish the edges of the shoulder seam allowance. I think finishing the inside of a garment makes all the difference between a shoddy garment and a professionally finished garment.

Finish the hem of the Garment on front and back.

Sew the side seams from the outside along the line you have marked.

If you want to add a placket opening to your Kaftan checkout the detailed tutorial to make 3 types of plackets.

Related – Checkout the free pattern to sew a flared dress with bell sleeves

flare dress free pattern

How to decorate your Kaftan

You can embellish your caftan with any of the numerous trims available in the market.Adding a lace trim along the side border is a good look and would add width to a fabric with less width.  Satin ribbon also can be applied to the sides and necklines for a nice touch. I like the look of cute hand embroidery designs near the necklines.

Other Kaftan patterns

Long sleeved Kaftan Pattern with tight sleeve

You can make a long sleeved Kaftan top with the following pattern – This dress will have a tighter sleeve hem and unlike the above kaftan the side seam is stitched without any fabric left on the sides. Because of the way it is cut, this pattern has a dolman sleeve, that is the portion under armscye has no definition. . E- G is the stitching line of the side seam. The fabric outside of E-G is cut and side seam is stitched here from the inside.

The measurement for C-G (8.5″) should be marked to make sure that, this portion is clear for armhole opening. C is roughly half shoulder width from A.

Neck finishing of this Caftan should be done as mentioned above.

long sleeved kaftan dress tutorial

Some other options are as follows:

Try this shape if you want a Kaftan with lesser flaps on the sides. It is a batwing shape

Kaftan pattern short top

Short kaftan

Loose kaftan pattern
Kaftan drawing

Checkout the free pattern for a boho top which is a lot similar

boho top pattern

Best Pattern for a Kaftan Tunic

Then finally my most favourite pattern for a kaftan top

Kaftan dress

As the sides taper to the sides of the hips this creates a more slimming silhouette than the regular kaftan and hence my favorite.

This beautiful but very easy pattern consists of 6 pattern pieces. The front and back bodice and 4 side slaps ( two each for both sides).

kaftan tunic top illustration

To make this pattern you need to measure the Bust round and Hip round. Other measures are all standard. 

( Checkout the post on How to take body measurements for more details)
Steps to stitch this pattern
Step 1.
First, finish the necklines of the front ad back bodice pieces as any regular tunic

Step 2.
Join the Shoulder seams
Step 3.
Join the top seams of the side flaps (I-A in the picture)
Step 4.
Stitch the side flap to the sides seams on the bodice on either side – A-B of main garment to the A-B of the side flaps.
Step 5. 
How to add the drawstring

Measure the tunic at 18 inch from the shoulder.
Make two buttonholes 1/2 ” from the center fold line on the front bodice piece ( Point D in the picture)
Cut a strip of fabric 1 1/4 inch wide and the round measure calculated above plus 1/2 inch. Stitch this to the inside of the tunic. This will create a channel for the drawstring to pass through. Insert fabric tubes through the buttonholes.

( Checkout the tutorial to make thin fabric tubes you can use here)
Step 6.
Hem the sides and bottom edges with a narrow hem. You can attach any trimmings like lace or ribbons to the hems.Finish the kaftan with some gorgeous embroidery near the neckline.

How to refashion an old Tunic or Kurta to a Kaftan

refashioned tunic to kaftan

You must have tunics and Kurtas in your wardrobe which are too tight for you or which have bled colours on the sides (which happened to me) but which you have kept because you love the print or work too much to dump it.

I transformed one such top to a kaftan with the above pattern – Just added the side flaps and stitched the side seams from outside – tada – my  old beautiful tunic which had bled on the sides after the first wash is new again – The side flaps can be in any similar fabric which you think will look good- even lace fabric would do. These are so like angel wing sleeves. 

You can wear a Kaftan top with any of the 12 different types of pants. Checkout the tutorials to sew a pajama pants to go with the kaftan top or make a leggings pattern with sewing instructions  or eastern pants like dhothi pants or palazzo pants to go with them. If you would like  a modest and easy to sew tunic checkout the Easy tunic tutorial or this kurta tunic top

easy kurta tunic top

Checkout sewguide’s Kaftan pinterest board to ogle at some gorgeous kaftans  and inspire you to make them yourself.

Checkout this post on making a tank top for a different way of finishing the neckline with a yoke which is embroidered. 

tank top pattern


Checkout for more patterns and sewing tutorials 

learn how to sew
sew salwar kameez


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.