Jan 272011
 

BanyanWikipedia

Bath robes belong to the same garment family as housecoats, kimonos and dressing gowns, and all of these serve to conceal either a wet body – the bathrobe’s specialty – or the fact that a person is dressed in informal clothing. What is, however, not very well known is that all of these robes are generally thought to be descended from one common item: the Eastern-influenced banyan.

The banyan came to popularity during the mid-19th century and was mainly worn by men of the upper and upper-middle classes while engaged in leisurely pursuits like studying in their libraries or writing in their studies. It became, furthermore, quite the thing for men to be wearing brightly colored banyans in their formal portraits, and, without this very obvious record, the wearing of the banyan would probably have passed into history without so much as a whisper echoing down the decades.

Just like modern bathrobes, banyans were made of fabrics like cotton and silk, but, most definitely unlike modern bathrobes, banyans came with matching long caps or turbans instead of matching sets of bath towels. A further difference between the banyan and the bathrobe is that the banyan was always worn over a suit of clothes and was never intended to be a wet body’s first refuge after hopping out of the bath.

Although the exact origin of the banyan is rather unclear, most sources agree that its loose fit was adopted from similar robes that had made their mark in the 17th and 18th centuries in such exotic places as Persia, Asia and Turkey. Early banyans did not sport sleeves and were almost exclusively the domain of men – rich and leisurely men – and only later did it become accepted practice for women to wear housecoats, dressing gowns and bathrobes. Surviving patterns for the banyan also show that it could be made entirely out of one piece of fabric, often with an inner lining of a complimentary color.

Banyans were the status symbols of their day, and this is where they part company with bathrobes, which are more practical than precious.

Oct 182010
 

The Japanese kimono can be used as a comfortable, much more fashionable alternative to the bathrobe. Dating back to the fifth century AD, both Japanese men and women have been wearing kimonos since a similar style of dress was important from Han-era China.

In Japan, the kimono was always far more than something comfortable to wear around the house. western-style clothing didn’t make it to Japan until the early 20th century. In 1923, Japan’s emperor issued an edict requiring almost all public officials to change their style of dress from kimonos to western-style uniforms. Until that time, the kimono was one of the basic items of clothing for both women and men.

The east-west interchange of clothing styles goes both ways. Since the early 20th century, westerners have collected kimonos as souvenirs or as elegant, unique ways to dress. Although traditional kimonos remain expensive and elegant in the west, some people like to use the kimono as a loose-fitting housecoat to relax around the home.

Japanese-Americans still keep kimonos on-hand for special occasions. During the traditional Coming of Age Day, for example, a kimono is still a common item, as it is for weddings. A kimono jacket can be found for under $100; truly elegant silk kimonos can exceed $500.