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Banyan and waistcoat

Banyan and waistcoat

  • Place of origin:

    China (woven)
    Italy (sewing)

  • Date:

    1800-1810 (weaving)
    1800 - 1810 (sewing)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with support from a generous individual

  • Museum number:

    T.77:1, 2-2009

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. Dark blue, along with yellow and black were the colours worn by the Emperor and his family, according to occasion. Imperial dragons always had five toes; the four-toed dragons depicted here were intended for a relative of the Emperor. The landscape includes mountains, associated in Chinese symbolism with happiness, and rivers, representing longevity. The colours used, design and quality of weaving are typical of silk to the late Jia Qing dynasty or 1800 to 1825.

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. The style of the waistcoat, with long sleeves and short skirts is old-fashioned for the early 19th century.

Physical description

A European man's banyan and waistcoat made from robes woven in China and intended for a dragon robe to be worn at the Chinese Imperial court. The silk is woven to shape with two dragons on the front, one on the back and stylised landscape borders, in gold thread and green, yellow, white and red silks on a royal blue satin ground.

Place of Origin

China (woven)
Italy (sewing)


1800-1810 (weaving)
1800 - 1810 (sewing)




Length: 152 cm Banyan, Length: 74 cm Waistcoat

Descriptive line

Banyan and waistcoat, man's, made from a Chinese dragon robe, Italian, 1800-1810.

Labels and date


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]


Clothing; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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