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

Last updated: Nov 27, 2021

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.

  • Palais Fesch MFA852.2.326, a red silk robe
  • MFA 44.6, a silk brocade banyan, 18th century (remodeled)
  • ROM 959.112, a chintz banyan, “Textile made in coastal southeast India, constructed in the Netherlands,” early 18th century
  • Centraal Museum 21651, 18th century; chintz with a linen lining, close-fitting with an upright collar; the patterns for the borders and pockets and closure were designed into the print, and it has a separate waistcoat-front
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2010-20, “Gold silk damask lined with red woven silk; woolen inner lining,” England, early 18th century
  • Met 1983.479.5, silk, England, first quarter of the 18th century
  • CMA 1936.443, a man’s morning gown, resist-dyed cotton with applied gold leaf, India, first half of the 18th century
  • LACMA M.2005.42, mordant painted and resist-dyed cotton from India, c. 1700-1750
  • Man’s banyan of painted-and-dyed cotton, Indian export for the European market, first half of the 18th century
  • V&A T.281-1983, a nightgown in Spitalfields silk, interlined with wool, and lined with silk; England, c. 1707-1720
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0555890, red chintz, c. 1710-1725
  • V&A 1182-1899, silk lined with block-printed cotton, possibly made in Flanders, 1720s
  • V&A T.31-2012, silk damask woven in China, banyan made in Britain or the Netherlands, c. 1720-1750
  • Nordiska museet NM.0263181, c. 1720-1775. Printed cotton fabric woven in India, probably sewn and purchased in London.
  • Met 1973.195.1a, b, cotton and linen, America, c. 1725-1799
  • Met C.I.53.74.7a, b, silk, France, c. 1730
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1991-556, brocaded silk lampas lined with coarse brown linen, made c. 1730 and remade in the late 19th century
  • Met 1981.208.2, figured silk faille, England, c. 1735
  • LACMA M.79.140, Spitalfields silk damask, England, c. 1740
  • Nightgown in blue wool damask, c. 1740
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0555930, dark red silk damask lined with green silk, loose belt at waist, 1743
  • Historic New England 1918.546, wool damask lined with twill, c. 1740-1750
  • Manchester 1949.73, silk damask lined with silk twill, England, c. 1740-1750
  • Nordiska museet NM.0192128, silk damask lined with printed cotton, mid-18th century (c. 1740-1770)
  • FIT 2010.98.2, pink ribbed silk with brocaded design in silver frisé thread, Germany, c. 1748-1760
  • Fries Museum T1957-434, printed cotton, c. 1750
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0394450, reversable printed cotton (yellow background on the outside, cream background on the inside), c. 1750
  • Manchester 1960.301, silk damask lined in silk, Britain, c. 1750-1760
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 1038640, blue silk damask with matching slippers, c. 1750-1775
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0556461, orange/yellow silk damask, c. 1750-1800
  • Met C.I.56.5.1a-c, silk, wool, and linen, European, second half of the 18th century
  • LACMA M.2007.211.797, silk satin and silk plain weave (damassé) woven in China in the first half of the 18th century, made into a robe in the Netherlands c. 1750-1760; see also pattern
  • V&A T.215-1992, a banyan in painted and dyed cotton, with printed cotton lining, possibly England or the Netherlands, c. 1750-1775
  • MFA 43.122 reversable (silk satin on one side, silk-embroidered linen on the other), second half of the 18th century
  • Bijlokemuseum, printed cotton, c. 1751-1800
  • LACMA M.2007.211.949, patterned silk satin with striped silk lining, France, c. 1760
  • Kerry Taylor Auctions Dec 12 2016, Lot 41, a gentleman’s brocaded silk banyan, c. 1760
  • Man’s silk satin damask banyan, England, c. 1760
  • Met 2008.75, quilted silk, c. 1760-1770
  • Met 1976.149.1, silk, France, c. 1760
  • MoL 53.101/10, made of Spitalfields silk woven c. 1731-1740 that was originally a different garment, resewn into a banyan around the mid-18th century; the lining is Indian glazed cotton painted with a floral design, c. 1740-1760
  • Christie’s Lot 329 / Sale 5922, a banyan and waistcoat made from a dragon robe
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0321790, light blue silk damask with blue silk soutache frogs, c. 1750-1775
  • ROM 2010.28.1, silk damask banyan, Spitalfields silk woven 1742-1743 and robe made c. 1760
  • Historic Deerfield 2001.10.1, a banyan with attached waistcoat in cherry-red Spitalfields silk, c. 1760-1770
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1941-208, 1, brocaded silk banyan and matching waistcoat, Britain, c. 1750, remodeled 1760-1770; “Old pleats at the front are evidence that this banyan was remade from a woman's sack-back gown. Men's clothing usually differed in pattern from women's gowns. Except for embroidered formal wear, most suits were made with solid, striped, or small-patterned textiles. Only loose banyans such as this were considered suitable for large-scale damasks or brocaded silks.”
  • A man’s banyan, c. 1760-1800, in Fitting & Proper: “A banyan in unlined Indian cotton chintz”
  • Quilted silk banyan, China Trade, English Market, c. 1760-1770; “The width and selvedges of the satin indicate a Chinese manufacture, while the cotton interlining and the cut suggest that the piece was made up in India. This example is also nearly identical to a quilted blue satin banyan in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (655A-1898), and relates to another blue silk gown in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (968.173.2).” (See also Met 2008.75.)
  • Manchester 1951.11, printed and quilted cotton (reputedly worn by George III), England, c. 1760-1780
  • Manchester 1954.966, silk damask with silk twill lining, England, c. 1760-1780
  • LACMA M.63.53a-b, silk with wool flannel lining, France, c. 1765
  • ROM 2009.110.1, chintz banyan, “Made in coastal southeast India for the Western market, tailored in Europe,” c. 1765-1775
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1941-208,1, brocaded silk with cotton-and-linen lining, 1765-1775
  • Historic New England 1980.1047, wool damask with wool lining, c. 1768-1799
  • Royal Ontario Museum 2016.43.1, cotton chintz, c. 1770; “Textile made in coastal southeast India, garment perhaps made in the Netherlands”
  • Historic Deerfield 2000.12, block-and hand-painted cotton made on the Coromandel Coast of India for the English/American market in the 1770s or early 1780s
  • Nordiska museet NM.0186307, floral-print cotton, c. 1770-1790
  • Snowshill Wade Costume Collection National Trust 1349100, c. 1770-1800; “A late 18th century banyan or dressing gown in beryl blue silk. Lining - fronts and hem is of cream silk. Back possibly 'kasha'. Kasha is a soft silky fabric of wool and goat's hair with a twill weave. Body slightly padded with soft blue wollen fabric. Interlining at shoulders of red woollen fabric. Interlining at shoulders of red woollen fabric. Cuff interlined linen. Cut - Ankle length, loosley cut, slightly flared from waist. front closure with wide overlap. Deep stand collar. Sloping shoulder seam. Back cut in one piece. Wide, shaped, set in sleeves with slight fullness at rear. Deep, close round cuffs. Trimmings - Wide frogging, across front and cuffs, pale peach coloured silk ribbon decorated with large silver sequins. Fastenings - 7 small flat self covered buttons from, and inculding, collar to hip line, buttonholes all cut.”
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1954-1010, India chintz with silk facing, England, c. 1770-1810 (also here)
  • Colonial Williamsburg 2009-123, tartan lined with wool, England, c. 1770-1810
  • Rijksmuseum BK-NM-13160, a quilted robe in silk damask, c. 1775-1800
  • Centraal Museum 15195, printed cotton with a cotton lining, c. 1775-1800
  • Nationalmuseet 3614/1968, a dressing gown in cotton, used in an opera (Fiskerne), made c. 1780
  • Royal Ontario Museum 909.33.1, a banyan from France, cut about 1780 from silk woven c. 1735-1740
  • Chintz banyan worn by George IV when Prince of Wales, 1780s
  • Snowshill Wade Costume Collection National Trust 1348897, c. 1780-1800; “Made of cream and cinnamon striped cotton. Lined with unbleached cotton. Front straight cut; side back seams slightly curved; no seam at waist; sword slit in left vent; deep pocket in right vent, vertical flaps fastened with 2 buttons with 1 at top of vents (1 missing). Sleeves curved with 2.5 (64 mm) flase cuffs fastened with 2 buttons. Stand and fall collar fastened with 1 button (missing). 10 self-covered buttons down front with 5 buttonholes. A 6th buttonhole added later, button missing.”
  • KCI AC5631 87-22, red Chinese silk damask and contrasting green lining, England, c. 1785
  • Colonial Williamsburg 1993-66, banyan with attached waistcoat fronts, block-printed cotton lined with linen, Europe, c. 1790-1830 (also here)
  • Met 1978.135.1, silk, England, c. 1780
  • Winterthur 2014.0024, discharge-printed exterior with checked lining, 1780-1790
  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag 0556761, printed cotton with sewn-in waistcoat fronts, pre-printed borders and pockets, c. 1780-1800
  • Meg Andrews 7717, a gentleman’s morning robe, in a dark block-printed chintz with a linen/cotton check lining, c. 1795
  • Christie’s Lot 8 / Sale 5945, 'hard' tartan wool with green silk lining, c. 1800
  • Historic Deerfield 2004.22, Chinese silk damask weave nightgown in a large flower and leaf pattern with a twill-woven, shot olive silk half lining assembled in England or America, c. 1800

Depictions of men in banyans