Dressing gowns were pretty spiff wear in the 19th century. They evolved from the Indian banyan, a casual long garment. Our modern bathrobes, worn to brush your teeth or donned after the shower, do not fill quite the same ecological niche. Dressing gowns were more in the line of yoga pants, or sweats. If your regular day wear involved high starched collars, tight waistcoats, and stovepipe hats, a nice loose gown was a relief to don at the end of the day. In a classy dressing gown you could receive close friends, take breakfast or a late supper, or sit by the fire and discuss cases with Dr. Watson while smoking your pipe. Here we may see a typical dressing gown in its native habitat, modeled by Thomas Carlyle. The Sage of Chelsea is depicted by the mid- 19th century painter in the full trappings of an intellectual, pen in hand, his wife Jane by the fire of an intensely-pattern-filled drawing room, wearing a jazzy striped dressing gown. Notice he is wearing it over a shirt (see the white collar and cuffs peeking out) and boots. He probably has trousers on under there too. But he did shed all the other uncomfortable outerwear.
The salient features of this garment, which hold for many decades, are the long sleeves, long skirt, and the center front opening that allows for easy on and off. The dressing gown I propose to make clearly has to be like this.
And, what luck! I have a vast stash of fabric, a dragon hoard accumulated over decades by many hands. Relatives, friends, I have inherited stash from many sewers who could have been on cable TV being kindly addressed by Marie Kondo. In justice, for a purely impractical project like this, I shouldn’t go and spend lots of money on more cloth. I should raid my stash. And very fortunately I have about ten yards of glorious gold brocade with a sprigged pattern. Behold!
I’ve been saving this mouthwatering yardage for years, just in case the Queen of England invites me to court or something. But I’m tired of waiting for HM to get it together. The greenish rope cording is also from the stash — I must have eight yards of it, plenty for any craziness I care to execute. At the bottom is some very dark gray brocade with a gold spriggy pattern, a great contrast!
So the plan falls into place. A gold brocade dressing gown, with the black an elaborate collar, lapels, and cuffs, carefully adjusted so that the vines all run up or downhill properly. If there is enough yardage there’ll be a box pleat at the back, from collar to floor, to ensure a proper period fullness at the back.
Next up: into the weeds of design. Because there are no Simplicity patterns for this kind of thing. Not a problem. Before I cut, I need to make the pattern. Measure twice, cut once!