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Banyan, 1750-1775. T.215-1992, V&A Museum

Banyan, 1750-1775.
T.215-1992, V&A Museum

Banyan or wrapping gown, either will do to wear as the year winds down. This project took longer than I wanted it to, mostly because I have a tendency to take on too many things at once and promptly get sick. I like to think of this ability as a gift.

In any case, this is a simple garment to make, made more fun by piecing– it’s the challenge that keeps you awake, when the majority of the work is in teeny-tiny back stitches.

I measured the subject and made up my own pattern, using the chintz banyan in Fitting and Proper and this one at the V&A as models.


Patterning is a simple thing, really. Maybe too simple. Measure the gentleman’s chest, bicep circumference and arm length, neck, and back length. With those, you know how wide to made the body, the center back length you need to achieve, how wide to cut the neck hole, and how wide and how long the sleeves need to be. Really, not that hard.

You can use a diagram like this to start you off. I did wing the bottom width, guessing at the angle to give the garment a fullness similar to the chintz at the V&A.

I didn’t have quite enough fabric to accommodate the recipient’s full height, nor could I get enough of the red print lining material; I had to piece both the stripes and the lining.  Trying to match up the stripes was remarkably satisfying, both when I succeeded and when I was  little off. Life Goal: Dizzying, please.

Again with the two color lining.

Again with the two color lining.

It contrasted well with a blue woven coverlet, making a nice bright note as the rooms were prepped for What Cheer Day. This was the effect I had hoped to achieve waaay back in April when I failed to finish anything I wanted for the After Dark program thanks to a bout of strep throat.

By October, though, I was able to finish the entire item and make a matching cap, allowing Billie Bowen to recuperate in style from an evening at the Cold Meat Club.

Next up, using this as the base pattern: a wool bedgown, lined in wool, and pieced. More mis-matched stripes, please!