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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Title:nightgown; banyan; dressing gown
Date Made:1770-1780
Materials:textile: red silk damask; dark green twill weave silk lining; linen; twill weave wool lining; natural wool lining/interfacing
Place Made:United Kingdom; England
Measurements:overall: 48 in (back) x 51 in (waist); 121.92 cm x 129.54 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2001.10.1
Credit Line:Mr. and Mrs. Hugh B. Vanderbilt Fund for Curatorial Acquisitions

Man's tailored gown known as a banyan, constructed with an attached waistcoat. The fashion fabric is a cherry-red damask-weave silk probably woven in Spitalfields, England's main silk weaving center located in east London. The garment was made for a large man; the chest measurement is 52". The garment was constructed for winter wear, lined with a rough wool at the back. The garment is lined with dark green silk twill and green wool twill at the back lining. Made since the 16th century, banyans or men's dressing gowns functioned as loose robes worn by 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, sometimes 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. American gentlemen adopted the fashion of wearing banyans as evidenced by the 1767 portrait of Boston merchant Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771) by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Many early American scientists and scholars posed in banyans to communicate the purely intellectual or spiritual character of their endeavors: "a banyan in eighteenth-century portraiture seems to indicate a body at ease, giving free rein to the mind's work." There is also evidence that at least four banyans were made and worn in Deerfield between 1773 and 1779. The rich, cherry-red silk damask of this banyan was a favorite color of this period.

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