Banyan and Waistcoat thumbnail 1
Banyan and Waistcoat thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear

Banyan and Waistcoat

before 1750 (weaving), 1750s (sewing)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Chinese design was immensely admired and sought-after in Europe and this banyan and waistcoat are a unique blend of Chinese textiles and Western tailoring. They are clearly cut, tailored and sewn in a European style. Banyans and nightgowns were popular informal men's garments worn for leisure at home and among friends.

Both banyan and waistcoat have been made out of a silk woven especially for the Chinese Imperial Court. There were specific garments known as 'dragon robes' to be worn at court in China, and these were usually not available for export to the West. They were richly brocaded in gold and coloured silks with dragons on the front and back of the robe and stylised landscape borders. The silk was woven in a design with nine dragons to make a robe for a member of the Chinese imperial family. This one was a particularly luxurious production as the eyebrows and hair of the dragons have been woven with a silk yarn entwined with peacock feathers. The silk dates to before 1750, when the Emperor Qianlong changed and standardized the design of the robes.

The Italian tailor who made the banyan and waistcoat, adapted to the wide, flowing style of the Chinese robe, while retaining the usual European front opening instead of the traditional Chinese side opening. The characteristic cuffs on a Chinese dragon robe have been inverted on the banyan sleeves. Careful piecing of the brocaded design and use of the undecorated parts of the satin ground have made the conventional sleeved style of a European waistcoat. Sleeved waistcoats were going out of fashion by the mid-eighteenth century, so this ensemble was probably made before 1760.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Banyan
  • Waistcoat
Materials and Techniques
Silk, linen, gold, peacock feather; hand-woven, hand-sewn
Brief Description
Man's banyan and waistcoat, Italian, 1750s, made from a royal blue brocaded silk satin, woven in the design for a Chinese dragon robe, before 1750, Nanjing
Physical Description
Man’s banyan and sleeved waistcoat made from woven-to-shape lengths of a royal blue silk Imperial Dragon robe, brocaded with gold filé, coloured silk floss and peacock feathers in a design with nine dragons and stylised landscape borders. The robe side opening was stitched closed, and the centre-front seam unpicked to make the banyan. The under-front of the robe became the waistcoat fronts, with areas of brocaded silk at their hems. The plain satin around the brocaded shapes was cut and pieced to make the sleeves, back of the waistcoat, belt and pockets for the banyan. The waistcoat is lined with fine bleached linen.
Dimensions
  • Banyan length: 152cm
  • Waistcoat length: 74cm
Styles
Gallery Label
Banyan 1800–10 Banyans were informal, loosely fitting gowns worn by men at home for leisure, during the toilette, and when among friends and business associates. They were introduced to Europe from Asia during the 17th century. The name comes from the Indian word for a trader, and the cut was originally based on the Japanese kimono. This one was made from a silk woven for a Chinese imperial court robe, and has a matching waistcoat. Made in Italy from fabric woven in China Silk satin, brocaded Purchased with support from a generous individual(09/12/2015)
Credit line
Purchased with support from a generous individual
Summary
Chinese design was immensely admired and sought-after in Europe and this banyan and waistcoat are a unique blend of Chinese textiles and Western tailoring. They are clearly cut, tailored and sewn in a European style. Banyans and nightgowns were popular informal men's garments worn for leisure at home and among friends.



Both banyan and waistcoat have been made out of a silk woven especially for the Chinese Imperial Court. There were specific garments known as 'dragon robes' to be worn at court in China, and these were usually not available for export to the West. They were richly brocaded in gold and coloured silks with dragons on the front and back of the robe and stylised landscape borders. The silk was woven in a design with nine dragons to make a robe for a member of the Chinese imperial family. This one was a particularly luxurious production as the eyebrows and hair of the dragons have been woven with a silk yarn entwined with peacock feathers. The silk dates to before 1750, when the Emperor Qianlong changed and standardized the design of the robes.



The Italian tailor who made the banyan and waistcoat, adapted to the wide, flowing style of the Chinese robe, while retaining the usual European front opening instead of the traditional Chinese side opening. The characteristic cuffs on a Chinese dragon robe have been inverted on the banyan sleeves. Careful piecing of the brocaded design and use of the undecorated parts of the satin ground have made the conventional sleeved style of a European waistcoat. Sleeved waistcoats were going out of fashion by the mid-eighteenth century, so this ensemble was probably made before 1760.
Bibliographic Reference
L.E. Miller, 'In Fashion: Two Banyans and a Suit', Luxury. History, Culture, Consumption, Vol. 4:2-3 (July-November 2017), pp. 159-165. A new acquisition for the Europe 1600-1815 Galleries (opened in 2015). Here the first object is mistakenly called a banyan rather than a nightgown.
Collection
Accession Number
T.77:1, 2-2009

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record createdJuly 7, 2009
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