Collection

'Unto This Last' Dressing gowns

Collection: Branded

Category: Furniture

Date: Circa 1960s/70s

Designer: Unknown

Nationality of Designer: Unknown

Manufacturer: Marquis

Manufacturers Location: London (U.K)

Material: Wool, silk trimming

Dimensions: Variable

Abstract:

Three 1960s mens, plaid check wool dressing gown/smoking gown.

Adaptions/renovations:

Adapted with title of Ruskin's essay, 'Unto This Last' sewn onto each of the backs by Meg Falconer.

Why it's in the Collection:

The regular wearing of a dressing gown by men about the house is derived from the 18th-century wearing of the banyan and has its roots in Persian court dress, hence the remaining traditional flourishes of rich silk trimming and tassels. 

One of the earliest mentions of a dressing gown comes from Samuel Pepys, who wanted to be depicted in his portrait in a silk gown but could not afford one, and so rented one:

Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hale's and there sat till almost quite dark upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn [in] it—an Indian gown, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it. —Diary, 30 March 1666

Although the dressing gown has become more practical in its design, the cultural associations of a dandified lounge - lifestyle have remained. Wool dressing gowns, like the Marquis labeled one in the Lawson Park Collection, were all the rage in the 1960s/70s. Its shawl collar is borrowed from its use on men's evening wear, the dinner jacket and smoking jacket, and is common on traditional dressing gowns. 

The title sewn onto the dressing gowns, relates to former owner of Lawson Park, John Ruskin's essay on the economy. It was first published in December 1860 in the monthly journal Cornhill Magazine in four articles, and in Ruskin's words is was, "very violently criticized".

The essay is very critical of capitalist economists of the 18th and 19th century. In it, Ruskin points out that under the political economist’s system, getting rich is always at the expense of someone else:

"... the art of making yourself rich, in the ordinary mercantile economist’s sense, is therefore equally and necessarily the art of keeping your neighbour poor."

Ruskin sums up his economic philosophy:

There is no wealth but life. Life including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.

About the Designer/Maker:

Meg Falconer moved to the Lake District in 1978 and her interests evolved away from her early enthusiasm for the brave new (and expensive) world to an interest in British folklore and the arts and crafts movement. Meg has also donated a Robin Day arm chair to the Lawson Park Collection.

We can find little information about the fashion label, Marquis. It was most likely an affordable high street brand in the 1960s/70s.

Bibliography & Further information

Victoria and Albert example of 18th century dressing gown

Brighton and Hove example of a Banyan robe

Brief history of the Banyan

Iconic dressing gown attire of Noel Coward.

'Unto This Last' essay by John Ruskin, 1860

Sarvadoya, Ruskin's essay translated into Gujarati and back into English by Mahatma
Ghandi