Tunics are tops thanks to their fashion versatility

  • Tunic-in-Berry-multi-print

    Tunic in Berry multi-print.

  • Tunic in Berry multi-print.
    Tunic in Berry multi-print.

    From the beaches to the runway, tunics are warming up the street-wear fashion scene.

    Adaptations of the South Asian tunic have been cropping up everywhere because of their versatility. Whether a full-length and flowing caftan or a short, more tapered kurta, these lightweight pullovers can be worn as a nightgown, a beach cover-up, or a casual dress over leggings.

    This season, Italian fashion house Etro amped up the sexy factor on the caftan by creating cut-out shoulder pieces and blending bold prints with sheer silk chiffon fabric. Although Etro twisted the traditional caftan in a different direction, the appeal of the Persian summer staple stays the same: relaxed and cool attire for the hot months.

    While many caftans can be bulky, with their signature butterfly sleeves and shirred seams, brands such as Etro, Missoni, and Calypso St. Barth have focused on making their designs more streamlined. Other designers, instead of playing with the shape of the caftan, have modernized its simpler relative, the kurta.

    Etro’s caftans and kurtas fall in the higher price range of $800 to $2,000, but similar styles can be found for much less.

    Although boutiques and department stores have always carried tunics, when the spring/summer 2013 runways unveiled the colorful and diaphanous kurtas of Alberta Ferretti and Christian Dior, their popularity spiked to new levels. When the iridescent lace tunics and silk slips of the runway are adapted for the street, they make a bright yet casual statement.

    Floral chiffon tunic.
    Floral chiffon tunic.

    The kurtas of ready-to-wear designers John Robshaw and Gretchen Scott focus more on color and print. Tunics by Robshaw and Scott in summery patterns range from deep blue Matisse-like hand prints to coral tropical schemes. The cotton tunics retail for $65 to $80.

    “I think the appeal lies in the bright colors, good price points, and multiple usages. All ages have been buying them. We are finding that the most common use for the caftan is to be worn out. It’s not being confined to just the bedroom or beach anymore,” said Jeff Mulert, owner of Feathers, a Pittsburgh boutique.

    Whether embroidered, embellished with beading, or peppered in preppy prints, this summer kurtas and caftans promise to be a warm weather staple.

    The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Noel Um is a reporter at the Post-Gazette.

    Contact her at: num@post-gazette.com.