The History of Men’s Robes

Men’s Robes

The type of man who wears pajamas is also typically the type of man who wears a robe when lounging about the house in the morning. Very few men today do as a proper Victorian gentleman would have done: return home from the office; remove his jacket and tie; take off his shoes; slip on a pair of fine leather slippers; don a lounging robe (also called a “dressing gown”) of hand-embroidered silk; then sit in an overstuffed wing chair in front of the fireplace to enjoy a smoke and a drink—legs crossed and dog by his side, or course. Today, a man uses a robe to cover himself prior to getting dressed for his day, or (especially the terrycloth type, called a “bathrobe”) as a garment to cover himself upon exiting the bath or shower. To a large extent, climate, personal taste, lifestyle, and Christmas and Fathers’ Day gifts determine the type of lounge robe a gentleman will wear. And also to a large extent, the type of robe a gentleman wears will determine the type of slippers he selects. A man who wears a silk dressing gown will oftentimes be the type of man who wears leather slippers, while the type of man who wears a terrycloth bathrobe will likely wear it with rubber flip-flops. But regardless of personal preference, every gentleman—especially one who visits or hosts friends—should have at least one set of pajamas, a lounge robe, and a complementary pair of lounge slippers.

Like pajamas, men’s dressing gowns were also influenced by Eastern culture. And like pajamas, dressing gowns have also served to influence fashion in general. The presence of the dressing gown in Western fashion dates back to at least the 17th century when European gentlemen would wear what was then called “Persian gowns” and “Indian gowns” because of the garments’ Eastern origins and oriental, kimono-style design. By the 1860s, the dressing gown had achieved the design which remains popular today: shawl collar; button-less, wrap design secured by a sash-belt; one chest pocket and two front-hip pockets; long sleeves; and of a length ranging from mid-thigh to as far down as the ankles. In the 19th century, lounge robes were worn twice per day: during a gentleman’s morning toilette, and in the evening after work (but before getting dressed for dinner). Today, they are worn primarily in the morning—or until a gentleman decides to get dressed for his day.

Perhaps the greatest trans-fashion influence of the lounge robe occurs in men’s formal wear and outerwear, where the shawl collar design of some tuxedo (“smoking”) jackets and winter coats, and the sash-belt closures of some topcoats, are directly inspired by dressing gowns.

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