Remember as a kid how disappointing it was to find that instead of a BB gun, Santa Claus had left a bathrobe and a pair of pajamas? St. Nicholas was looking to keep you warm during those cold, nocturnal trips to the bathroom, even if you thought bathrobes were Dullsville.
As an adult you might want to thank, instead of cursing, him. The choice of fabulous night coats available to the stylish cigar aficionado goes well beyond the flannel numbers you were offered as a kid, and these silk and cashmere beauties serve for much more than warming yourself while you line up to brush your teeth. Such fashion houses as Loro Piana, Brioni, Robert Talbott, Derek Rose and Daniel A. Hanson purvey elegant robes in stunning fabrics ranging from silks and cashmeres to fine cottons.
The bathrobe, night coat or dressing robe came to us via India as a descendant of Japan's kimono. Mad for anything Eastern, the Brits quickly picked up the look for nocturnal around-the-house wear. Made from the sumptuous silks and other fine fabrics imported from India, the robe quickly became suitable for receiving guests in informal situations, as diarist Samuel Pepys described in the seventeenth century.
The English, of course, applied their trim tailoring to the garment, and it evolved into more of a long coat than a flowing gown. As a result, the term negligee, which connotes a careless form of dress and shares the same root as the word neglect, was relegated to the sort of things that women wear. As the business suit took form with blander patterns, the robe became the gentleman's outlet for the exotic. Hence the boisterous motifs, such as the paisley (also a gift from the East) shown here on a robe from Robert Talbott ($2,950).
As tobacco became more popular, the robe took on double duty as an elongated version of the smoking jacket, used in conjunction with another accessory inspired by the East—the fez (see page 173)—which kept smoke off the head just as the dressing coat kept it off the body. By the dawn of the twentieth century, the garment was called a bathrobe (probably due to the coming of indoor plumbing) and had became a wardrobe linchpin, thanks to such fictional and real icons as Sherlock Holmes, The Thin Man and Hugh Hefner who wore it to such insouciant elegance. Join the fun.
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