House Beautiful Cover In A Thea Porter Kaftan

Barbra Streisand wore this ornate Thea Porter kaftan in a photo shoot for the cover story of August 1974’s “House Beautiful” Magazine.

Photo by Bill Helms

The magazine touted an exclusive of “Barbra Streisand at home” with “10 pages of her personally chosen treasures.” Barbra was one of Thea’s many celebrity clients. When she was renovating her house in Malibu, she had gotten in touch with Thea (who was dubbed the godmother of bohemian chic) and explained what every room was going to be like and that she needed a different outfit to match each room. The end result were several lush stunning kaftans.

Photo by Bill Helms

Porter’s designs are highly collectable. Because they are all made by hand no two are alike. Finding one of her pieces today is like finding a lost piece of art. These rare kaftans are now worth thousands of dollars & have been the focus of fashion exhibitions worldwide.

Photo by Joseph Marzullo, “Her Name is Barbra” Julien’s auction. 2004, Los Angeles, CA
Thea Porter kaftans

Dorothea “Thea” Seale (1927-2000) was raised in Damascus. She moved to London after separating from her husband Robert Porter, where she began to work in interior design. Her first shop in Soho sold imported fabrics & hangings. Determined to have beautiful cushion covers, Thea began cutting up imported kaftans, but realized they were fashionable in their own right. This led her to start reselling them, but when her imports couldn’t keep up with the demand she decided to make her own from mixed fabrics & antique trims. For almost twenty years exotic garments inspired by the Middle East and luxurious richly-patterned silks and antique fabrics were Thea Porter’s trademark.

back view

Barbra’s red and cream kaftan is a mixture of art deco and 70’s style. It was made from resist-dyed satin and features a bold red vertical panel at its center. The V-neck has a striking sea shell embroidered overlay, comprised of red single-strand sequins jutting outward in a wing like fashion.

The back features a matching smaller version of the same motif. Several silk patchwork areas draw the eye to the bottom of the garment. These fuchsia, light purple and black squares are garnished with patchwork, red, black and silver sequins, hand beading and silver embroidery thread. Red velvet ribbon trims the front and back center panels and gold bullion cords hang from the sides. This custom design was paired perfectly with a red satin head wrap for Barbra’s photo shoot, which all combined made her look incredibly exotic. This kaftan sold at auction in 2004 for $11,500.00 to benefit charity.

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