A banyan (through Portuguese banian and Arabic بنيان, banyān, from the Gujarati વાણિયો, vāṇiyo, meaning "merchant") is a garment worn by men in the 18th century influenced by Persian and Asian clothing.
Also called a morning gown, robe de chambre or nightgown, the banyan was a loose, T-shaped or kimono-like cotton, linen, or silk gown worn at home as a sort of dressing gown or informal coat over the shirt and breeches. The typical banyan was cut en chemise, with the sleeves and body cut as one piece. It was usually paired with a soft, turban-like cap worn in place of the formal periwig. An alternative style of banyan was cut like a coat, fitted, with set-in sleeves, and was closed with buttons and buttonholes.
Wearing the banyan
In the humid climate of Colonial Virginia, gentlemen wore lightweight banyans as informal street wear in summer.
Loose dresses contribute to the easy and vigorous exercise of the faculties of the mind. This remark is so obvious, and so generally known, that we find studious men are always painted in gowns, when they are seated in their libraries.
Despite the name "nightgown", the banyan was not worn for sleeping.
- Waugh (1994), p. 89
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- A Colonial Gentlemen's Clothing: A Glossary of Terms
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