Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Can Always Learn Something New

I’ve been interested in the Regency era for a long time, at least twice as long as the Regency itself lasted. And I learned something new just last week: Banyan. The name I thought only belonged to a tree, more specifically the one I think of grows on Front St. in Lahaina, Maui.

A banyan in the Regency period was known as a robe de chambre, a loose-fitting robe or skirted-coat, constructed in a range of colors and various types of fabrics such as silk, cotton, damask, brocade, and wool. This new garment was open in the front and nearly floor-length, with plain banding or a rolled collar and deep folded cuffs.

One of my characters in an upcoming book, Signor Biondi, a Latin tutor, wears this and, at the time I was writing him, I didn’t know the name of this piece of wardrobe. I could see him wearing it. I knew exactly what it looked like but I could not find the name of this garment. I searched online for several hours, finally settling on a dressing robe. I never did feel the garment’s name was quite right.

I came across the Dandy Taylor blog where there are tales, trials, and pictures of handmade historical garments. Mike studies theatre and costume/prop design at Grand Valley State University. He also is a historical reenactor, mostly 1812 and American Civil War reenactments. He dresses for the “other” side but I won’t hold that against him.

For more information about Banyans see:

Jane Austen’s World: Banyan: a man’s dressing gown

The Dressing Gown: The History of the Dressing Gown

Regency Redingote: Banyan: Merchant, Tree, Meatless Day or Garment?

The Costumers Pictures of Nightgowns, Nightcaps, Dressing Gowns, and Banyans, plus Banyan Web Links

There you are . . . informal, comfy Banyans. Now I know, and so do you.


Beate Boeker said...

It sounds as if your research is great fun, Shirley! Thank you for sharing it!

Elisabeth Rose said...


Jayne Ormerod... said...

I learn something new every day! An interesting bit of fashion trivia and a fabulous new word, and now I feel challenged to work "banyan" into casual conversation today. Wish me luck!