A Moroccan Miracle Dress

Dress: Moroccan Street Market Djellaba (Altered) | Belt: Miu Miu (Consignment) | Earrings: Target | Heels: Calvin Klein (Lord & Taylor)
Dress: Moroccan Street Market Djellaba (Altered) | Belt: Miu Miu (Consignment) | Earrings: Target | Heels: Calvin Klein (Lord & Taylor)
Dress: Moroccan Street Market Djellaba (Altered) | Belt: Miu Miu (Consignment) | Earrings: Target | Heels: Calvin Klein (Lord & Taylor)

I don’t shop much when I’m traveling internationally. I’d rather breeze through the airport than fret over losing my luggage or draconian overweight fees. But when I honeymooned in Morocco this summer, I abandoned reason and combed the open-air souks for the perfect souvenir. (A honeymoon isn’t a normal vacation, so my usual rules don’t apply.)

Like many tourists, I was on the hunt for something “authentic” that I couldn’t find at the mall back home. I immediately fixated on finding a djellaba, which is a long robe with a roomy, pointed hood. Every Moroccan male over the age of 5 owns a djellaba – you’ll often see older men wearing them while sipping mint tea in the cafes, and younger men (in their 20s-30s) often wear them on Fridays, a holy day for Muslims.

Everyone (but the model) in this fashion shoot is wearing a djellaba. (Appeared in Porter magazine)
Everyone (but the model) is wearing a djellaba. The photo, which was snapped in Morocco, originally appeared in Porter magazine.

I found the perfect version in the coastal city of Essaouira, where the souks are extremely relaxed. (You won’t need to hone the hardcore bargaining techniques required in Fes or Marrakech.)

Shopping in the Essaouira souks for the perfect djellaba.
Shopping in the Essaouira souks (and Blue Steeling-ing it up!) while on the hunt for the perfect djellaba.

I envisioned using my djellaba as an exotic alternative to a typical bathrobe or beach cover-up. (Although Madewell rhapsodized about wearing the style as a maxi dress.)

But when I returned home, I remembered that I liked my old bathrobe and beach cover-ups just fine. My beloved souvenir was left hanging on the bathroom door for months – until I took it to my tailor. We shortened the robe to the knee, and when paired with a cinched belt, the djellaba transformed from a baggy maxi to a wearable shirtdress.

This alteration job cost about $30. (And if you knew how to sew, it would be a free fix.)
This alteration job cost about $30. (If you know how to sew, it’s a free fix.)

When fall rolls around, I’ll play with the proportions and pair this dress with opaque tights, a leather jacket and boots. (Keep an eye on the Seasonal Shifts category.)

If you’re interested in finding your own version, the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs sells a remarkably similar robe. (Hem job not included.) But while the robe in the Ace gift shop is $130, I scored my version for 250 Dirhams – roughly $30.

  • Maya Meinert

    I love this idea! Even better if I could sew, LOL.

    • TheStylePragmatist

      I wish I could sew, too! (NYC tailors aren’t super cheap.) My mom tried to teach me to sew back in high school, and after multiple near-stabbings with the machine’s needle, I gave up. (I wonder if I can dig up any photos of my “creations.”)