thea porter

Rare 1977 Thea Porter Couture Documented Cherry Red Fused Velvet Open Front Abaya Caftan

A few months ago I sold a green version of this caftan and I am so pleased to have found a red one so soon after. Like the green, this Thea Porter caftan was made in 1977. It was dated from a copy of the original sketch of the caftan shown worn over a pair of wide legged pants. A copy of that sketch also appears in the 2015 book 'Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic' and I have included both the sketch and a shot of it in the book for you reference. These open front versions were especially loved for their versatility and ability to 'hide the body beneath the billowing forms, with transparent fabrics hunting subtly at the female form'. Of all of Thea's pieces, her caftans have come to represent Thea's work like no other piece of her clothing that she designed. Elizabeth Taylor was a huge fan and collector. By the end of Taylor's life she had amassed a large collection of Thea's work that was auctioned off through Christie's in 2011. Many of the caftans in that auction fetched well over the $20,000USD mark and a burgundy version of this one sold at the auction for USD $8125. Each of Thea’s caftans were made by hand and no two are exactly alike. 

The caftan is very beautiful and is made from a plush devore velvet on a silk chiffon base. She has used the same velvet for the top and bottom portion of the caftan but has set them to that the pile of the velvet goes on the opposite direction. This causes the velvet to catch the light differently and in person the effect is gorgeous. Around the neck and down the back is a raw silk panel that is both embroidered and detailed with hand set beading. Red silk piped ribbon is set along the edges of the caftan to highlight its shape. At the sides and front this piping extends out to tassels that hang down and move when you move. Thea was known to hunt antique stores and markets during her extensive travels and use what she found in her designs so some of the elements used may be found antique textiles. The caftan is unlined and once it is on you see that velvet fused chiffon is semi-transparent. This see-through quality makes is very sexy despite the full coverage it has. The front tassels tie to hold it closed. You can easily add a soft belt to add shape like the one shown in the reference photo that was owned by Elizabeth Taylor. A very special piece and worthy of its book noted provenance. It looks to have been worn very little if at all. Literally like it stepped through time. Excellent condition

Unlined and slips on to wear with a little hook at the front. It's easy and open shape should allow it to fit just about any size. Hand beading and finished by hand

Width: 37" side to side at widest point
Length: 49" from neck to middle hem and falls to 55" at the sides

Modern Sizing Equivalent: OSFA

Reference Photos: (1) Thea Porter sketch of a devoré velvet open-fronted version of the abaya, 1977   /  (2) Previous sketch shown in the book "Thea Porter: Bohemian Chic" by Laura McLaws Helms and Venetia Porter.  /  (3) 1977 Thea Porter from Christie's.

Item# DD3687

This garment has been professionally cleaned, pressed and is odor free. Thoroughly checked over before shipping, it will be ready to wear upon arrival.

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Please review all measurements carefully. More often than not, vintage garments do not fit any size category exactly. If in doubt, measure a garment of your own that fits and is a similar cut and compare it's measurements to the listed measurements below.