It’s a special little luxury at a hotel when there’s a robe to slip into. You always feel just a little like you’re having some sort of spa experience when you’re wearing a robe. It’s comfortable, it’s a little bit fancy, and it’s always acceptable for wear around the house.
But what you think of when you picture a robe, or a house coat could be different from someone else’s idea of a robe. Learn more about different types of house coats, how robes came to be and why you should always have one around.
Making the Robe
The robe is also known as a house coat. A little less commonly, it’s called a dressing robe or a dressing gown as well. By any name, the robe is a full, open garment that wraps around the body. It has wide sleeves. Sometimes, it has an attached belt, and sometimes, it has large, square pockets on the front.
There are some variations on robes and different types of house coats that have some elements which differ from this standard design.
Robes can be made in any material and in lots of different designs. But getting from ancient days to modern robes was a style journey spanning centuries, continents, and cultures.
The first clothing resembling modern robes dates to the 1600s in Europe. These were worn by men, and they were made in elaborate styles. These early robes were inspired by the similar Asian belted gowns, like kimonos, that were worn throughout the continent.
Like the gowns these European robes were inspired by, these early house coats were made in fine fabrics like silk, velvet, and brocade. House coasts were a bit of a status symbol, an in-between piece of clothing worn around the house. The fancier the fabric and the more embellishments it had, the higher the rank or the wealth of the wearer.
A similar garment for women appeared in the late 1700s. This was known as the robe en chemise, and it was a sheer, lightweight wrap-style gown that was tied around the body with a satin sash. Originally, the robe en chemise had elbow-length sleeves.
Later, ruffles and lots of embellishments appeared. Marie Antoinette was married to the future King Louis XVI of France in a robe-en-chemise. Paris gentry was scandalized by the lightweight garment, and basically, they said she was as good as naked. But the style caught on anyway and went on to inspire later robe designs.
By the 1860s, the dressing gown had taken on its modern silhouette with a shawl collar, full sleeves, and an open, V-neck wrap design. These robes became popular, and by the 1920s, they were a common item, particularly among those who tried to dress well. Beach robes became popular in the 1930s.
Sexy, sheer robes became a Hollywood staple in the 1920s and 1930s, with many glamorous stars of the screen frolicking onscreen in long, full robes trimmed with ostrich feathers. Robes had made it into the movies, and there was no stopping them after that point.
Pretty soon, many different types of robes appeared in the fashion world as various designers played with the basic design and experimented with new materials, fabric cuts, and embellishments. Today, robes are definitely here to stay, and there are lots of options for the styles you choose to wear.
Types of Robes
The robe is a pretty straightforward, simple design. But within the basic characteristics of robes, there are many different designs and lots of different styles of this garment. How many different types of robes have you worn? You might choose to up your robe game after you get a look at this list.
Perhaps the most famous type of robe is the bathrobe. Often made with plushy fabric in a design that’s meant to be soft and almost towel-like, bathrobes are usually meant to be somewhat loose fitting and have an attached belt in the most common designs. Bathrobes can be any length, from short thigh-length designs to long ankle-length creations.
Bathrobe designs are the robe designs you’ll often find in hotel rooms and spas. They’re soft, they’re comfortable, and they’re moisture-absorbing.
Classic robes have an attached belt, two large square front pockets, and a shawl collar. This is the traditional, classic bathrobe style that you probably think of first when someone mentions the word robe. These robes are often made to be plushy and comfortable in materials like terrycloth, velour, cotton, bamboo, and fleece. Classic robes are all-purpose robes.
The dressing gown or house coat is one of the most common types of robes. It’s an open, loose-fitting gown that is worn before or after getting dressed in outside attire. These robes are generally lightweight and somewhat decorated or embellished, but the designs can be simple, too.
Dressing gowns are made in any length in all colors and patterns with all different kinds of fabric.
Hooded robe designs are found in bathrobes, but they are largely associated with athletic robes, such as the lightweight satin robes that boxers wear. Robes with hoods attached can be any length, and they’re made in all materials. Hooded robes can be bathrobes or house coats.
Judges’ robes, or barrister robes, are highly recognizable. They’re all black, high-necked, and they are very full and voluminous. In the United States, these robes are worn by judges in court. In the UK, they are worn by lawyers, which are called barristers there.
The tradition of wearing special attire in court dates to 1327. This was when King Edward III of England decreed that judges should follow a dress code when attending the royal court. Because of this, fancy court attire for those involved with the law soon became the norm, with many barristers and judges wearing long, rich gowns in shades of red and other attention-getting colors.
In 1637, the Privy Council of England ruled that lawyers should dress according to their societal status. From then on, the lawyers began to wear long gowns made in practical, fairly simple designs. Some added little extras to the robes, but this didn’t last long.
In the 1700s, lawyers started to wear long, somber black robes with no embellishments at all. This style was adopted all over England and spread to the U.S., where today, it remains as judges’ robes.
Kimono-style robes differ from other styles because they do not have a collar. Kimono-style robes are one of the oldest designs, dating to at least the 700s. The kimono became the main item of clothing worn in Japan by both men and women.
It was a long, full, wrap-style garment with wide sleeves that was tied with a sash that was wrapped and knotted in a special way. The kimono became more refined over the centuries before it took on its modern design near the end of the 1800s.
In the 1800s, tobacco became a popular commodity in Europe. Cigars were a particular delight, and soon, smoking them became a hobby to be enjoyed. Men began smoking cigars with gusto.
They enjoyed the activity, but there was a problem: the smell of smoke clung to their clothing. This is how the idea of the smoking jacket was born. Basically, this is a fancy robe. Hugh Hefner, of Playboy fame, was known for wearing one of the garments.
There are many different types of house coats and a long and interesting history that led to their creation. Nearly every different style of robe tells its own story. But that kind of makes things even more confusing.
If you’ve still got questions about house coats, bath robes, and dressing gowns, we’ve got the answers to the most frequently asked stuff about this ancient garment.
Which robe fabric is most comfortable?
Robes by design are meant to be comfortable, and they are often made with luxury fabrics and soft materials, such as cotton, linen, terrycloth, and silk.
Robes can be made with any material, including synthetics, and everyone’s skin reacts to certain fibers differently. Natural materials, such as cotton and silk, are typically less irritating and less itchy on the skin than other options. However, you never know which materials are going to feel best on your skin until you try them!
How do you wash robes?
Some robes are made with pricier materials, or they have embellished designs. They might have feather embellishments or embroidery or some kind of super soft material you don’t want to ruin. But at some point, you’re going to want to wash your robe. Make sure you do it the right way to avoid causing any damage to the fabric or the design.
Before you wear your robe, check for a label somewhere inside the robe or on one of the seams. Usually, clothing items will come with a comprehensive care label that provides detailed instructions for washing and drying the garment in a machine. If you cannot find specific instructions, you should be able to see the fabric composition of the robe. This will tell you what the robe is made of, so you will know how to wash and dry the fabric properly.
Once you have a little more information about your robe, you can wash your robe. Silk robes can be cleaned in lukewarm warm with a little bit of mild shampoo mixed in. Baby shampoo is ideal. Gently switch the robe around in the water for a few minutes, rinse gently and lay it out flat on a towel to dry.
Cotton, microfiber, and synthetic robes can be washed in the machine on a gentle cycle with cold water. Dry on low heat. This gentle treatment and cooler temperatures will prevent shrinking. If your robe has intricate embroidery, feathers, lace, or other embellishments, you may want to consider taking it to a dry cleaner.
What are the most common robe fabrics?
Robes can be made with any fabric in any color and seemingly any design. But you will see some robe fabrics more commonly than others. Wool, fleece, flannel, cotton, satin, silk, cashmere, chenille, microfiber, and synthetic fabrics are seen most often in robe construction.
How should robes fit?
In classic designs, robes were made to be somewhat large, loose garments with big, full sleeves and lots of fabric. However, robes can be made in more streamlined designs in modern fashion. In other words, robes can fit very loosely or have more fitted designs.
The main thing is that robes should be comfortable, so choose the fit that feels best for you. Because they’re made in wrap designs, robes have a bit of a custom fit in all circumstances.
Apparel Search – Robes
eHow – How to Clean a Silk Robe
Encyclopedia – Robe En Chemise
The Fashionisto – The Origin of the Smoking Jacket
Gentleman’s Gazette – Dressing Gown & Robes for Men
Harcourts – History of Black Robes
JSTOR Daily – The Surprising History of the Kimono