Few garments are as well-used and loved as the dressing gown. The perfect home garment, regardless of whether it’s a sleepover, a cozy evening or a long weekend. But did you know that the classic white bathrobe owes its iconic status to Marilyn Monroe? Or that the popularity of dressing gowns dipped during the 1980s yuppie era? Discover the exciting history of the dressing gown, and look at your favorite garment with new eyes.
- The history of the dressing gown
- Nine highlights in the history of the dressing gown
- FAQ – Frequently asked questions about dressing gowns and bathrobes
The history of the dressing gown
Dressing gown, morning wrap, lounging robe, bathrobe, robe-de-chambre, smoking robe, kimono and yukata – this beloved garment has many names, and a long and colorful history.
18th century: The dressing gown makes its way into the Western world
The dressing gown was introduced to the Western world as early as the 18th century. The inspiration came from the banyan, a loose fitting T-shaped garment that was common in the Middle East. The first dressing gowns were worn by men of the upper class and were usually made of richly decorated silk brocade.
19th century: A garment for the upper class and intellectuals
By the mid-1800s, well preserved women also began wearing dressing gowns in the home—a welcome break from the tight corsets and layers of petticoats they otherwise wore. The dressing gowns were made of exclusive fabrics and richly decorated, so the women still maintained their decency in front of the servants.
For the men, the dressing gown was a way to bring color and pattern into an otherwise rather uniform and monochrome wardrobe. Over time, the dressing gown began to be seen as a garment for intellectuals, many professors and students have been portrayed wearing their dressing gowns.
20th century: The bathrobe appears, and the time as a status symbol comes to an end
The industrial revolution affected the use of the dressing gown in several ways: firstly, the upper class began to abandon the traditional ostentatious dressing gowns in order not to boast of their wealth, secondly dressing gowns were introduced in simpler materials such as cotton. During the beginning of the 20th century the bathrobe made its entrance. Between the world wars, sea bathing became a symbol of freedom, at the same time it was still important to cover one’s body: The bathrobe quickly became popular as the perfect, modest garment to wear over swimwear at the beach.
At the end of the 20th century, most people owned some kind of dressing gown, either a simpler cotton terry dressing gown or a more luxurious silk variant, but at the same time the dressing gown’s status declined. The garment became a symbol of a non-desirable home life, everyone wanted to make a career outside the home, and yuppies had the highest status.
Read more! See all our dressing gowns and bathrobes
Nine highlights in the history of the dressing gown
Take a tour of the robe’s exciting history, and meet some influential followers, from queens to celebrities and influencers.
4th century: The Chinese kimono
The morning gown’s Asian relative, the kimono, originally comes from Chinese garments from around 400 AD. During the 8th-12th centuries, kimono-like garments began to be used in Japan.
1901: A dressing gown goes to the grave
On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria of Great Britain died. She was buried, according to her wishes, together with one of Prince Albert’s dressing gowns.
1920s: Hollywood makes the dressing gown hot
Hollywood films from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s increased the popularity of the dressing gown – especially among men. Sean Connery, Nigel Bruce and Cary Grant are just some of the men who posed in dressing gowns in classic film scenes.
1955: Marilyn Monroe creates a classic
Few film scenes are as famous as the scene in The Girl on Top when Marilyn Monroe stands on top of a subway ventilation grate and her white dress blows up. But did you know that in the same movie Marilyn also wore a simple white cotton terry dressing gown? And just like the white dress, the dressing gown became incredibly popular and achieved iconic status after the film.
1964: Pelle Vävare is founded
When the Swedish company Pelle Vävare was founded in the 60s the company quickly became a challenger to the Swedish textile industry: Pelle Vävare’s colorful and velvety terry stood for something new. The company’s founder Pelle Almqvist was exceptionally good at finding and hiring new design talent. Two of the most influential were Katarina Bramberg and Monica Hjelm, who made Pelle Vävare famous with their unique design and patterns. Over the decades, Pelle Vävare’s dressing gowns with beautiful, timeless patterns and careful details have been loved by generations.
2005: A sustainable choice for space travel
When the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was made into a movie in 2005, the cinema audiences got to see how flexible and durable a dressing gown can be. The film’s main character Arthur Dent (played by Martin Freeman) makes his way around the world’s galaxies wearing his green dressing gown – the only thing he had time to put on when escaping the end of the earth.
2021: The dressing gown goes viral on TikTok
In autumn 2021, the dressing gown was a success on social media. TikTok influencer Marina (@flamingo_1leg) showed off a new innovative way to tie her dressing gown. Instead of the sash going behind the back, Mariana starts at the front, threading the sash through the loops and back to the front again – which she says gives the dressing gown a nicer fit. The internet is divided, but the dressing gown enjoyed a moment in the spotlight.
2022: Pelle Vävare tailors dressing gowns for children
In the spring of 2022, Pelle Vävare launched its first collection of dressing gowns for children. The children’s coats are made of extra soft cotton terry, which is a little lighter and thinner than the adult coats. They quickly became loved by children of all ages!
Read more! How to choose the right bathrobe
FAQ – Frequently asked questions about dressing gowns and bathrobes
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about dressing gowns and bathrobes.
Where does the name dressing gown come from?
The name of the dressing gown comes from the fact that the garment was initially used by distinguished men and women when they were getting ready for parties and glamor. In French, the dressing gown is called robe-de-chambre, which reflects that the coat was mainly used privately in the home.
Is there a difference between a bathrobe and a dressing gown?
A bathrobe is a variant of a dressing gown that is made of textiles with very good absorbency, e.g. cotton terry. A classic bathrobe often has a hood, which helps to dry the hair after showering and bathing. Today, there are many dressing gowns that are used as bathrobes and vice versa
Are dressing gown, kimono and yukata the same thing?
A dressing gown and a kimono are not the same thing. However, over the course of history, the dressing gown has been inspired by the traditional patterns and cuts of kimonos.
The Japanese kimono is a garment that comes in many different designs. A classic kimono has a narrow collar and is worn around the waist, and they are used today mainly by Japanese women on ceremonial and traditional occasions.
A yukata is an informal variant of kimono that can be used during the summer, or as a dressing gown. Both traditional kimonos and yukata lack pockets, but have wide sleeve openings with a fabric fold that can be used as a pocket.
Are dressing gowns and morning dresses different?
Yes, dressing gowns are different from a morning dress. A morning dress is a loose fitting dress, often in chiffon, that was mainly used at the turn of the last century. The morning dresses were also called peignors or peignoirs and were usually worn over the nightgown and used by women when combing and caring for their hair (pegins is French for comb).
Is the smoking robe a form of dressing gown?
In the mid-1800s, smock coats began to appear. The smoking coat was worn by men instead of (or on top of) the usual blazer or frock coat when smoking. The purpose was to protect the clothes against the smell of smoke and ash. In finer homes, guests were allowed to borrow smoking robes which are used in special smoking rooms in the home. A smoking coat was often made of a luxurious and expensive material such as silk or velvet.