On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 899

For at-home wear, a gentleman had a dressing gown, often with a matching waistcoat, and an undress cap or turban. As for breeches, they were not designed especially for this casual ensemble, but rather borrowed from other suits. The dressing gown was cut like a man’s loose coat and usually hung to the floor, though there were also versions that stopped below the knees. Since there were no fastenings, the wearer overlapped the dressing gown in front when he walked so that the sides did not billow out behind him. The sleeves were originally rolled back to form cuffs, but later dressing gowns display the fashionable cuff of their period. In England these dressing gowns were called "banyans" or "Indian nightgowns" because of their kimono-like form and Eastern origin. Banyans were made in a variety of fabrics, including silk brocades, damasks, and printed cottons. Winter banyans were occasionally quilted for extra warmth. Gentlemen received friends while attired in banyans as a sign of their informality and of their intimacy with the visitor. By the 1780s gentlemen ventured out of doors in this comfortable and stylish costume. According to Town and Country Magazine in 1785: "Banyans are worn in every part of the town from Wapping to Westminster, and if a sword is occasionally put on it sticks out of the middle of the slit behind. This however is the fashion, the ton, and what can a man do? He must wear a banyan." This yellow damask banyan with its bold Chinese Chippendale – inspired pattern would have been an imposing sight on the streets or in the drawing rooms of London.

Banyan, silk, British

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