Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Banyans or Nightgowns

Vermeer - The astronomer, 1668.
The name

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a banyan as “A loose gown, jacket, or shirt of flannel, worn in India.”  Many costume historians over the years have conflated it with a nightgown, and just to stop any confusion, in this sense a nightgown is not what you wear in bed, it is a loose gown worn informally at home. These loose gowns appear all over Western Europe in later part of the seventeenth century, as Lemire (2009) has commented in each country they are known by a different name. In France, where the influence of the Armenian trading community was important they are known as a robe d’Armenien, or a robe de chambre, as in this 1676 example. The Dutch called them Cambay, a name derived from the Indian port of Khambhat in Gujarat, or more commonly,  because of their trade with Japan, Japanese robes (japonsche rok) as worn by Vermeer’s Astronomer (pictured above right) and Geographer (Hollander, 2011). The English also used a Gujarati term for these loose garments, a banyan (or banian),  indicating a Hindu trader, but the first use the OED has for banyan as an article of clothing is 1725. (Oxford English Dictionary), and interestingly the term does not appear in Dr Johnson’s Dictionary (1755)

The types

Green banyan in the LACMA collection
The Cunningtons (1972) write of a banyan or (as they say) an Indian nightgown as “a loose coat ending just above or below the knees and having a short back vent to the skirt. It wrapped over in front being fastened by a clasp, or was buttoned or hooked down the front,” as in this superb example in LACMA (left), but they do not say how they came by this description. Anne Buck describes two types of nightgown the looser longer garment and the shorter more fitted version described by the Cunningtons, saying that the term banyan is also used for this second type. (Buck, 1979)

Who wore them?

The banyan/nightgown was an informal garment usually worn around the house with a shirt and breeches, though Steele in 1711 wrote of those who “come in their nightgowns to saunter away their time” in coffee houses. As Fortune (2002)has pointed out it usually those who are, or wish to appear, studious, who are painted in nightgowns, for example the 1695 portrait of John Dryden by James Maubert,  the 1712 portrait of Isaac Newton by James Thornhill , and the 1745 portrait of Maurice Greene, professor of music, in a nightgown, and his friend John Hoadley, a clergyman and poet, in a suit

Surviving examples

The Metropolitan Museum has several banyans/nightgowns dating from throughout the eighteenth century. LACMA has several as well as the one shown above.  The example in the Museum of London has an outer fabric of Spitafields silk that was originally a different garment and was remade as a banyan in the mid 18th century. The V&A example is cotton chintz rather than silk.  Platt Hall at Manchester has four examples from the eighteenth century.

Buck, A., 1979. Dress in eighteenth century England. London: Batsford.
Cunnington, C. W. and P., 1972. Handbook of English costume in the eighteenth century.. Rev. ed. London: Faber.

Fortune, B., 2002. "Studious men are always painted in gowns": Charles Wilson Peale's Benjamin Rush and the question of banyans in the 18th century. Dress, Volume 29, pp. 27-40.

Hollander, M., 2011. Vermeer's Robe: Costume, Commerce, and Fantasy in the Early Modern Netherlands. Dutch Crossing: Journal of Low Countries Studies, 35(2), pp. 177-195.

Johnson, S., 1755. Dictionary. [Online] Available at: http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/ [Accessed 20 July 2012].
Lemire, B., 2009. Fashioning global trade: Indian textiles, gender meanings and European consumers 1500-1800. In: G. Riello, ed. How India clothed the world: the world of south Asian textiles 1500-1800. Boston, MA: Brill, pp. 365-389.

Oxford English Dictionary. Banian. [Online] Available at: www.oed.com/ [Accessed 5 July 2012].

Friday, 13 July 2012

After Janet Arnold: researching and reconstructing historical clothes in the 21st century, report on a talk by Jenny Tirimani

Last weekend I was at a Costume Society study day in Bath and one of the speakers was Jenny Tirimani, who gave a talk with the title above. Jenny for those who don’t know her was designer at the Globe until 2005, was heavily involved with Patterns of Fashion 4 and edited Seventeenth Century Women’s Dress Patterns, the second volume of which is due out shortly. She is an inspiring speaker with an obvious great love for her subject.

Jenny started by talking about what books are around that have usable patterns taken from surviving clothing, far fewer than you would think. As well as Norah Waugh’s two books on the Cut of Women’s Clothes and the Cut of Men’s Clothes, and Janet Arnold’s four Patterns of Fashion, Jenny mentioned, Sharon Ann Burnston’s Fitting and Proper: 18th century clothing from the collection of the Chester County Historical Society (USA), Linda Baumgarten’s Costume close-up: clothing construction and pattern, 1750-1790 (Williamsburg) and Johannes Piestch’s patterns taken from the Hupsch collection in the Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt  and published by Abegg in 2008 (his PhD thesis on the subject is available online at http://nbn-resolving.de/urn/resolver.pl?urn:nbn:de:bvb:91-diss-20080821-619442-1-9)

Jenny mentioned that she is a director of The School of Historical Dress, which is launching fully in October. The School has access to Janet Arnold’s archive, including probably over half a million slides, and all the material that Janet so sadly left unfinished at her death. Jenny said that there is probably enough material for another two volumes of Patterns of Fashion and showed us a highly detailed unpublished pattern of a c.1620 man’s suit in the Livrustkammaren Stockholm; I think from the description this one .

Jenny spoke about pattern books that were available in the 16th and 17th centuries. The work book of a Milanese tailor dating c.1550-80, here Jenny pointed out that many of the shapes were based on parts of a circle or compounds thereof, and that this was the difference between the tailor and the seamstress.  The Masterbuch von Enns dating to c.1590, I think that is this one. The Libro de geometria (Tailor's pattern book) by Juan de Alcega 1589. The Martin de Anduxar, Geometria y tragus pertinecientes al oficio de sastres, published in Madrid in 1640, and Le Tailleur Sincere of 1671 by Benoist Boullay. I was interested to see that this last book has a pattern for a coat for a poor man. A list of what is available electronically is here.

Jenny was responsible for the fantastic outfits for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011 production of Anna Bolena, and spoke about the difficulties of researching what was for her a less well known period, most of her work for the Globe being 1590s. She spoke about the 1530s outfit of Maurice, Elector of Saxony, in the Staatlichen Kunstammlungen Dresden, more information is available here, and the Abegg Stiftung publication of their work on the garments is Das Prunkkleid des Kurfürsten Moritz von Sachsen (1521-1553) in der Dresdner Rüstkammer: Dokumentation - Restaurierung – Konservierung, by Bettina Niekamp and Agnieszka Wos Jucker.  Jenny also mentioned some very early Hungarian material, about c1515, which I think is in the Hungarian National Museum, but I cannot find it on their website.

Jenny finished her talk by speaking about the new production of Richard III that she is currently involved with for the Globe, sounds exciting.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Fashioning the Early Modern Final Conference 2012

Fashioning the Early Modern Final Conference 2012
14-15 September 2012, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The HERA funded 'Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Early
Modern Europe, 1500-1800' project will be holding its final conference on Friday
14 and Saturday 15 September at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The two-day “Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in 1500-1800
Europe” conference will be organised around three themes: Innovation,
Dissemination and Reputation. The following key profile speakers have been
invited to speak: Lesley Miller (Victoria and Albert Museum), John Styles
(University of Hertfordshire) and Evelyn Welch (University of Queen Mary,
University of London).

Registration is open to all those interested to attend. For a Conference Programme and online registration, go