18th Century Men Wore Dresses Called Banyans

Strolling down the streets of colonial Williamsburg, you wouldn’t have done a double take if you passed a gentleman clad in a flowing dress that looked like a nightgown. In fact, you might have complimented his fashion sense.

The garment was called a banyan, and in 18th century America and England it was considered typical, informal day wear for educated men of leisure. As comfortable and forgiving as sweatpants are today, banyans were loose robes that provided a welcome relief from the period’s often-constricting coats.

To modern sensibilities, banyans looked like nightgowns, or even bathrobes. In fact, they were originally inspired by styles from Japan, China, and India, which at the time had become fashionable in England thanks to the Dutch East India Company. (The name “banyan” is actually an Anglicized version of a Gujarati word for “trader.”)

Even though they were “casual” clothing items, some banyans were fancier than others. Fabrics ranged from simple linens and cottons to more elaborate chintz fabrics, brocades, and silks. There were also stylistic variations—fitted vs. loose, ties vs. buttons, and set-in sleeves vs. a chemise cut. Some banyans were quilted and lined, yet others were cool and lightweight. Patterns and colors also ranged widely. The variations were just about endless.

A banyan was worn over a shirt and breeches; a small, matching hat called a “negligé cap” topped off the look and kept a man's bald head warm when it wasn't covered by a wig. The oufit was commonly worn in the privacy of a gentleman’s home—particularly in the early morning or evening hours, during which he’d dine with his family, write letters, and read books.

However, banyans were also worn in public. Men in colonial Virginia donned banyans during the humid summer months. And since the loose cuts were thought to be conducive to “the easy and vigorous exercise of the faculties of the mind,” intellectuals like Benjamin Franklin and Sir Isaac Newton were often painted wearing banyans.

So if you’re passing through a museum and catch sight of an 18th century oil painting depicting a man wearing a silk gown, don’t think he stole it from his wife’s closet. The outfit may look silly now, but back then the ensemble signified that an individual was well-read, cosmopolitan, and refined—the same way that an expensive Polo shirt or a pair of imported designer spectacles might today. 

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An Eco-Friendly Startup Is Converting Banana Peels Into Fabric for Clothes
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iStock

A new startup has found a unique way to tackle pollution while simultaneously supporting sustainable fashion. Circular Systems, a “clean-tech new materials company,” is transforming banana byproducts, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, and flax and hemp stalk into natural fabrics, according to Fast Company.

These five crops alone meet more than twice the global demand for fibers, and the conversion process provides farmers with an additional revenue stream, according to the company’s website. Fashion brands like H&M and Levi’s are already in talks with Circular Systems to incorporate some of these sustainable fibers into their clothes.

Additionally, Circular Systems recycles used clothing to make new fibers, and another technology called Orbital spins those textile scraps and crop byproducts together to create a durable type of yarn.

People eat about 100 billion bananas per year globally, resulting in 270 million tons of discarded peels. (Americans alone consume 3.2 billion pounds of bananas annually.) Although peels are biodegradable, they emit methane—a greenhouse gas—during decomposition. Crop burning, on the other hand, is even worse because it causes significant air pollution.

As Fast Company points out, using leaves and bark to create clothing may seem pretty groundbreaking, but 97 percent of the fibers used in clothes in 1960 were natural. Today, that figure is only 35 percent.

However, Circular Systems has joined a growing number of fashion brands and textile companies that are seeking out sustainable alternatives. Gucci has started incorporating a biodegradable material into some of its sunglasses, Bolt Threads invented a material made from mushroom filaments, and pineapple “leather” has been around for a couple of years now.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
David Lynch's Amazon T-Shirt Shop is as Surreal as His Movies
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images
Dominique Faget, AFP/Getty Images

David Lynch, the celebrated director behind baffling-but-brilliant films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and Twin Peaks, is now selling his equally surreal T-shirts on Amazon.

As IndieWire reports, each shirt bears an image of one of Lynch’s paintings or photographs with an accompanying title. Some of his designs are more straightforward (the shirts labeled “House” and “Whale” feature, respectively, drawings of a house and a whale), while others are obscure (the shirt called “Chicken Head Tears” features a disturbing sculpture of a semi-human face).

This isn’t the first time Lynch has ventured into pursuits outside of filmmaking. Previously, he has sold coffee, designed furniture, produced music, hosted daily weather reports, and published a book about his experience with transcendental meditation. Art, in fact, falls a little closer to Lynch’s roots; the filmmaker trained for years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before making his mark in Hollywood.

Lynch’s Amazon store currently sells 57 T-shirts, ranging in size from small to triple XL, all for $26 each. As for our own feelings on the collection, we think they’re best reflected by this T-shirt named “Honestly, I’m Sort of Confused.”

Check out some of our favorites below:

T-shirt that says "Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"
"Honestly, I'm Sort of Confused"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a sleeping bird on it
"Sleeping Bird"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt that says Peace on Earth over and over again. The caption is pretty on the nose.
"Peace on Earth"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a screaming face made out of turkey with ants in its mouth
"Turkey Cheese Head"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an odd sculpted clay face asking if you know who it is. You get the idea.
"I Was Wondering If You Know Who I Am?"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an image of a sculpted head that is not a chicken. It is blue, though.
"Chicken Head Blue"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with a drawing of a lobster on it. Below the drawing, the lobster is labeled with the word lobster. Shocking, I know.
"Lobster"

Buy it on Amazon

T-shirt with an abstract drawing of what is by David Lynch's account, at least, a cowboy
"Cowboy"

Buy it on Amazon

[h/t IndieWire]

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