18th Century Men’s Banyans, Night Gowns, and Wrappers

BANNIAN. ſ. A Man’s undreſs or a morning gown.
(A Dictionary of the English Language, 1768)

The V&A’s website describes these garments: “In the 17th and 18th centuries a nightgown was not a garment worn to bed but a version of the modern dressing gown. Donned over breeches and a shirt, the night gown was worn upon arising in the morning and before dressing in the formal clothes required for public activities. At the end of the day, many men removed their coats and waistcoats, and put on a night gown for relaxing in private at home.”

Some more background from Historic Deerfield: “Since the 16th century, banyans or dressing gowns functioned as loose robes worn by Western gentlemen in the privacy of their homes. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘banyan’ as a 16th-century Arabic word for a Hindu trader; by the 1720s, the term had changed to indicate this piece of leisure clothing worn by men at home. Banyans are also described in period literature and diaries as bannians, Indian gowns, morning gowns, loose gowns and nightgowns. There are two basic styles: a loose T-shape, kimono-like garment; and a more fitted coat style, usually with a matching waistcoat, which may be attached to the banyan at the side seams and with some sort of front closure such as frogs or tassels.”

From The Annals of Philadelphia: “In the summer season, men very often wore calico morning-gowns at all times of the day and abroad in the streets. A damask banyan was much the same thing by another name.”

For related informal headwear, see the caps.

Depictions of men in banyans