men's-19th-century-fashion

Detail of a man’s outfit from the 1830s. The outfit consists of a necktie and pin, shirt, silk embroidered waistcoat, jacket, trousers, and tartan worsted cloak, with silk lining, fur-trimmed collar and gilt fastenings. The autumns and winters in Britain became much harsher during the first half of the 19th century and, as a result, cloaks came back into fashion, after having been partially superseded by the greatcoat. Worsted wool was a particularly popular material for outer-wear as it was tough and offered good protection from bad weather.

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It’s time again for FRIDAY FASHION FACT! A little while ago, I spoke about one of my favorite things- pajamas (read here). Coming in a close second on my list of most awesome things, as I’m sure many of you will agree, is lounge wear. Nowadays that typically means sweats or yoga pants (which I’m definitely not wearing right now, I don’t know what you’re talking about!) but in the 18th century, it was all about banyans!

What is a banyan? Short answer: it was a (typically silk) men’s robe. Longer answer? It was the first common form of lounge wear in Western societies. The style was derived from the robes worn by the upper class in the West Indies, as well as kimonos, Turkish robes, and other forms of Eastern dress. Colonists adopted the style and brought it back to England and France. While in the hot climates of the East, banyans were made out of lightweight cottons, in the West they were created out of rich silk brocades. In the comfort of their own homes, men would wear these loose garments over their shirts and breeches in lieu of their restrictive, tailored coats and waistcoats. They often paired the garments with Turkish inspired turbans.

Also known as a morning robe or robe de chambre, banyans became very symbolic for the upper class. It was only men of a certain means who would have the luxury of lounging about their home, not to mention having the ability to purchase such a frivolous garment. It also came to be associated with educated men, similar to academic robes. These learned men were “too busy” focusing on their studies to be bothered with fashion. It is because of these associations that posing in banyans became a popular theme in 18th century portraiture.

By the 19th century, various styles of banyans had been developed, including one that was quite structured, sort of going against it’s original intention. They were often made with matching waistcoats, for a more complete ensemble. Women naturally drew inspiration from banyans, creating their own forms of lounge wear. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

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Banyan with matching waistcoat. 1800. Silk. China (material), Italy (made).Royal blue, gold, dragon robe. I really like both the style and the cut of this banyan. The Chinese influence is clear in the colors and cloth pattern. Also in the collar design. The cut of the banyan is a bit unusual in that it’s not got a straight hem on the bottom. The waistcoat is unusual in this time period in that it’s long sleeved (most were short-sleeved by the 19th century), and the cuffs are larger than normal for this period. 

It’s in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum which has this to say about it:

Chinese design was immensely admired and sought-after in Europe and this banyan and waistcoat are a unique blend of Chinese textiles and Western tailoring. They are clearly cut, tailored and sewn in a European style. Banyans and nightgowns were popular informal men’s garments worn for leisure at home and among friends.

Both banyan and waistcoat have been made out of a silk woven especially for the Chinese Imperial Court. There were specific garments known as ‘dragon robes’ to be worn at court in China, and these were usually not available for export to the West. They were richly brocaded in gold and coloured silks with dragons on the front and back of the robe and stylised landscape borders. Dark blue, along with yellow and black were the colours worn by the Emperor and his family, according to occasion. Imperial dragons always had five toes; the four-toed dragons depicted here were intended for a relative of the Emperor. The landscape includes mountains, associated in Chinese symbolism with happiness, and rivers, representing longevity. The colours used, design and quality of weaving are typical of silk to the late Jia Qing dynasty or 1800 to 1825.

The Italian tailor who made the banyan and waistcoat, adapted to the wide, flowing style of the Chinese robe, while retaining the usual European front opening instead of the traditional Chinese side opening. The characteristic cuffs on a Chinese dragon robe have been inverted on the banyan sleeves. Careful piecing of the brocaded design and use of the undecorated parts of the satin ground have made the conventional sleeved style of a European waistcoat. The style of the waistcoat, with long sleeves and short skirts is old-fashioned for the early 19th century.

There’s no telling what might happen when you walk on the streets of the City of Lights at night.

Based on this fanfic by @somuchbetterthanthat

I finally finished this! I’ve been working on it for over a month, it’s ridiculous. But I’m so happy with the result. This is easily the best piece of art I’ve ever made. o__o

I just love this fanfic so much. (Please read it if you haven’t!) It’s short but absolutely beautiful and I just had to draw this scene because the visual wouldn’t leave my mind.

I have no idea if the clothes are accurate. I don’t know anything about men’s fashion in the late 19th century, I just picked a random reference picture. The background is based on a Marville photograph although it’s the wrong street… I couldn’t find nice pictures of Rue Voltaire from the right era. But hey, artistic licence!