The Way We Were: The brief, bright, bygone era of the dressing gown

It was the at-home attire of most well-off Bollywood dads in the ’50s and ’60s. Dressing downs haven’t been the same since.

10 Oct 2020 |  37

Many men have lived through the last few months in their pyjamas. But now that cooler days lie ahead, work-from-home / stay-at-home attire will transition to warmer track pants, sweatshirts and hoodies. Dressing gown, anyone? I can almost see the blank looks of younger readers, who’ve likely never encountered this garment, and the derisive expressions of older ones, who know of it, but as a quaint relic from the past. At one time, though, the dressing gown was what dapper gentlemen wore at home. In Hindi movies, it was closely identified with screen fathers — the well-dressed, well-off dads wore it with style, often while standing at the top of a grand staircase, sometimes with a cigar or pipe in hand. Typically, it was a robe with broad lapels, fastened at the waist with a sash. It was made of thick silky-shiny fabric (lightly padded for warmth, I think), and often had a self-coloured pattern. It was introduced to India by the British and adopted by rich upper-class Indian men in an attempt to reflect sophistication and status. And that’s how it was presented in Hindi movies. It imparted an air of gravitas, especially if the pater familias was busy forbidding weddings or turning unwanted, impecunious suitors away from the house. Dressing gown sightings in Hindi movies are far too numerous to enumerate, but I have a few favourites, classic scenes where the garment held centrestage.

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