RetroProgressive – Dressing gown guide for men

Christmas brings with it many opportunities for sartorial embarrassment. A house party is the perfect occasion to bump into your fellow guests in a half-lit hallway in the middle of the night, wearing your brand new, or very old, dressing gown. As Oscar Wilde said, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” It’s highly likely you’ll be judged according to what you are (or aren’t) wearing. So, as you jump out of bed to rush to the loo, be wary of what you throw on to cover your modesty. What you choose to wear says an awful lot about you – this is not just a dressing gown, this is a reflection of your personality:

1) Traditional – you’re the man whose next best friend is his dressing gown:  Preferably a long woolly one, with a nice warm collar.

2) Smooth – you’re the James Bond type. Like Nige, quite rare these days. Whether you’re a smoker or not, a classic smoking jacket sets you apart from the crowd.

3) Shifty –  a regular deal maker, you’re always preening your moustache and have lots of  ‘nieces.’ You’re known for your jazzy silk dressing gowns, specially imported for any occasion…

4) Dandyesque – you have a certain style and like to be known for it. Your dressing gown is totally unique.

5) Sporty – never mind boxing, you were Kung-Fu fighting before anyone else. Your dressing gown is silky, but practical – and custom-embroidered with Chinese dragons…

6) Diffident – you sometimes wear your stripey velour number to direct your wife into a parking space outside your Fulham house. A little uncomfortable, but preferable to the car getting scratched.

7) Camp – the theatrical type, you’re a control freak who enjoys pretending to be someone else. Your dressing gown says it all.

8) Naff – you’re a fan of true chav style and dressing gowns of the fancy dress variety, which feature highly during the Christmas party season anyway.

9) Sex-obsessed – you usually go for black and red slinky fabrics, and fairly short styles. Just take heed of Hardy Amies’ words, “Beware of stiff silks; they creak when you breathe, particularly in that big love scene.”

10) Poseur – you’re probably a catalogue model trying to emulate the more mature look, though you also like to show off your freshly waxed chest and black leather trousers – but you’re still not quite sure how to tie your belt…

11) Nouveau riche – your dressing gown is invariably monogrammed, which is fine if it says ‘The Westin Shanghai’, not so if emblazoned with ‘Harrods’.

12) Alternative – you’re a dedicated follower of fashion, who likes to wear something completely different – from Betty Oatmeal’s Romany blanket style smoking jacket to the ultimate in velvet and silk cut style…

13) Boring – you’ve only got a bog-standard white towelling dressing gown.

14) Plain slobbish – wearers of grey and unwashed dressing gowns, you know who you are.

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

12 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – Dressing gown guide for men

    December 11, 2010 at 08:42

    Oscar is usually on the money but seems to be wide of the mark here; friends I have made over the years, who possess the qualities that I value in a lasting fellowship, do not even own a dressing gown, and although all of them smoke, they don’t own a jacket to do it in.
    I thought that my own wife, a post-modern, post-liberation model, was the only woman in London who, quite naturally, would never attempt to shimmy the car into a space outside the house. She recognizes her shortcomings, in a way that a man could not, and simply places the keys, without explanation, on my desk, and I, wordlessly, go out and do what men do best – reverse into a space just 50cm longer than the car.

  2. Gaw
    December 11, 2010 at 09:02

    Susan, you’ve made me nostalgic for the best dressing gown I ever had – a diesel blue/thin white stripe herringbone weave number in linen (and lots of it) which I wore into rags. There’s nothing quite like a generously cut bit of linen to wrap yourself up in. John Lewis cotton waffle just doesn’t compare.

    Anyway, having gone through that thought process I went back to where I bought this legendary but discontinued item and found they’re stocking them again (but not in that colour):

    December 11, 2010 at 10:16

    Where does the slanket fit in to your brilliant list Susan? Naff or slobbish or both? My wife wants one for xmas

    December 11, 2010 at 10:31

    A magnificent – and definitive – list Susan! I’m still reeling from Slim Whitman – not to mention Simon Callow (always a sound policy). Sadly these days I fall slap bang into the Diffident category, having two striped cotton velour jobs, one exceptionally capacious – both gifts from Mrs Nige. At least I don’t live in Fulham or have the faintest idea how to park a car.
    Hang on – I’ve just thought of one omission – Jason King! Remember him? Somewhere beyond smooth, and camp as Christmas…

    Gadjo Dilo
    December 11, 2010 at 12:53

    Magnificent, as Nige rightly says, Susan, but I seem to remember one that’s missing: Lenny’s Henry’s Theophilus P. Wildebeeste advertising Alpen, though I can’t find any pics of it 🙁

    December 11, 2010 at 13:10

    Perhaps the world is divided between men who change out of their dressing gowns and men who change into them.

    December 11, 2010 at 13:22

    Mahlerman – How do you know your friends don’t own dressing gowns? Have you inadvertently bumped into them in the buff? I note the omission of your own preference in dressing gowns too… Trying to change the subject to cars were you?

    Gaw, the powder blue number you’ve linked to looks conventionally stylish, though perhaps a little too thin/skimpy for this chilly time of year. Worm, if the government had any money I’m sure it would issue slankets to everyone during snaps of excessively cold weather. I wouldn’t be seen dead in one, of course… Not just naff and slobbish, but aesthetically most unappealing.

    Nige, I searched the net to find a decent image of Jason King, but could only locate one showing his dressing gown collar. I love your description of him – and I’m not sure he fits into any of these categories, combining cheesy campness with cool retro style as he does. Can men’s dressing gowns ever be cool?

    By the way, I think I’ve included Bohemian in Dandyesque. I forgot all those aristocrats and their exotic gowns – perhaps the flouncy, eccentric style of Marquess of Bath, or the late Lord Glenconner? The cool/Bohemian category is much easier for ladies – I’ve got some fabulous kaftan and kimono type gowns in my wardrobe.

    December 11, 2010 at 18:23

    A magnificent survey – I never would have imagined there were 14 varieties of dressing gown wearer, yet there they are, clear as day.

    you sometimes wear your stripey velour number to direct your wife into a parking space outside your Fulham house. Arf!

    December 11, 2010 at 21:37

    What a superb article. The first one is my favourite, the chap with the book. Not only is his gown or jacket rather magnificent but he is almost the only person wearing it unselfconsciously, because it is simply the right thing to do. I can easily imagine him putting down the book, refreshed, changing, and striding out to take down a couple of dastardly spy rings and reconnoitre the Great Salt Desert before returning quite calmly to take up his book again.

    Btw, a pic of “Jason King in a smoking jacket – of an eastern kind, anyway. It certainly puts most alleged dressing gowns to shame.

    December 11, 2010 at 21:39

    Darn, not sure that link is coming out. It should be here: Jason King.

    December 12, 2010 at 00:05

    Thanks Gadjo – and Brit – would never have associated Lenny Henry with Alpen, but will look out for the ad. Peter, I’m still pondering over your comment – but so true.

    Mark, thanks for this curiously characterful photograph – Jason King’s attire looks more like an exotic housecoat than a dressing gown, don’t you think? As for the man with the book, I led with that because it epitomises the bookish style of ‘the dabbler’. In the words of Benjamin Rush (founding rather of the United States):

    ‘Loose dresses contribute to the easy and vigorous exercise of the faculties of the mind. This remark is so obvious, and so generally known, that we find studious men are always painted in gowns, when they are seated in their libraries.’

    December 13, 2010 at 16:57

    What an exposure of that most poncey of round the house garments, never worn one, had a few, as Xmas presents, sneakily exchanged them.

    Wouldn’t mind a smoking jacket and matching fez, do Barbour make them I wonder.

    Mark, Jason King AKA Peter Wyngarde, still in the naughty corner, hanging around gent’s bogs, he used to drink in the bar of Kensington Palace hotel in the mid sixties, always a twinkle in his eye and a hand ready for a knee. Eventually moved further east, drinking in that Watneys pub opposite the Knightsbridge barracks, more scope I suppose.

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