To relax at home in the eighteenth century, men of fashion took off their heavy hot wigs and stiff brocade or velvet coats, putting on instead, informal caps and banyans or gowns. Such gowns were not for use over nightshirts, but were the leisurewear of the period, enabling the wearer to feel less restricted by his costume, but still to receive people in a domestic setting.
Banyans, as the name suggests, originated in India and were imported in large quantities by the East India Company from the late seventeenth century. As early as 1661, Samuel Pepys bought "an Indian gown" for himself, and like all the Indian examples, his was made of painted and quilted cotton calico. By contrast, those gown originating in Europe tended, like this example, to be of silk, often damasks. Again, as here, they could be fitted like coats, buttoning down the front and sometimes incorporating waistcoat fronts. This example has a separate but matching waistcoat. Otherwise gowns were very much looser and fuller, cut like a kimono, and not fitted to the figure at all.
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