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Chintz banyan worn by George IV when Prince of Wales, 1780s 

   Chintz banyan worn by George IV

   when Prince of Wales, 1780s

Internationalism: historical style 

Dress from other cultures has been worn in Europe since the 17th century. An early example was the morning gown or banyan, forerunner of the dressing gown, worn by men. These would have been worn over shirt and breeches on informal occasions. 

Morning gowns were often made of Chinese silks, Indian chintzs (painted or printed cotton) or European imitations.

They came in many shapes and styles. Early examples were loose fitting, made from a flat-cut shape, open at the front, and in some instances cut like Japanese kimonos.

Other varieties, called banyans after the Hindu word for a trader, were fitted to the body with inset tailored sleeves and double-breasted fronts. These were sometimes decorated with elaborate cord fastenings.

From the late 18th century women's fashion incorporated Asian and Asian-influenced textiles and accessories such as the shawl and fan. However, it was not until the late 19th century that women in Europe started to wear clothes from other cultures, such as the kimono and Chinese robe, but only in private. These garments could be purchased from 'oriental warehouses' such as Liberty, which opened in London in 1875.

Early 20th century fashion designers were inspired to varying degrees by international influences, at the most extreme creating oriental fantasies or, more commonly, subtly incorporating details and motifs.

Evening pyjama outfit, mid-1920s 

Evening pyjama outfit, mid-1920s

    China has been a major source of inspiration for European designers. An early example are the woven silks during the early 18th century. These so-called 'Bizarre' silks, named for their oriental-style patterns, were woven in London and Lyons to compete with the newly imported silks from China.

Later, during the early 1920s, Chinese styles and motifs, such as the dragons embroidered on these pyjamas, were in vogue.

The term 'pyjamas' comes from the Persian 'pay' meaning foot and 'jama' meaning clothing. They were worn as informal wear during the 1920s-1930s and were one of the earliest acceptable forms of fashionable trousers for women.



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