This patchwork dressing gown or smoking jacket is a well-preserved example of handmade personal attire worn by men in their homes during the 19th century. It is unique for its multi-coloured patchwork design which has all been individually hand sewn together, most probably by the owner's wife and daughters.
The 19th century marked a sober turning point in men's fashion as masculinity was redefined for the industrial age. Menswear moved away from the lace frills, floral embroideries and elaborate decorative styles of the 18th century suit to one of unadorned neutrality and restraint. At its best, its understated elegance relied on highly skilled tailoring, quality fabrics and painstaking care with laundering and personal grooming. The Victorian man carefully managed his appearance to reflect a dignified, businesslike demeanor. However, decorative waistcoats and gowns offered the chance for personal expression. At home he could adopt more comfortable dress, including garments and accessories.
This particular dressing gown complements a number of other objects in the Museum's collection which would have been worn by a 19th century man in his home including a smoking cap, about 1860 (A6895), woolwork slippers (A8915-1:2) and dressing case (H4960).
Glynis Jones and Melanie Pitkin
Curators, Design & Society