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How the Luxury Robe Became a Louche Black-Tie Alternative

If you haven’t already experienced holiday burnout—that familiar end-of-year impulse, while trying to divine the specific sartorial demands of the latest “cocktail attire” invite, to throw up one’s hands, say “Bah, humbug” to the whole thing, and slip, instead, into the cozy comfort of a robe—you soon will.

This year, do both: the party and the robe. Take a tip from London, where the garment is still properly known as a dressing gown and where rarefied makers such as New & Lingwood and Budd cut princely examples from sumptuous silk paisleys, printed velvets, and gray windowpane flannels. And, befitting its new address at 36 Saville Row, Daniel Hanson offers both ready-to-wear and bespoke dressing gowns in a range of sumptuous materials, including contrast-facing cashmere and silk jacquard—perfect for a rakish approach to creative black tie.

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A Daniel Hanson gown in its natural habitat
A Daniel Hanson gown in its natural habitat.

For his own eveningwear rotation, Mickael Korausch, founder of La Bowtique Bowties, prefers velvet versions in a shorter, above-the-knee length paired with tartan trousers or the bottom half of an existing tuxedo. He’s cognizant, though, that the look won’t fly everywhere.

“I wouldn’t wear a gown and tartan trousers to the Pall Mall in one of the traditional clubs,” the London-based clothier says, calling the look “something for between friends.” Translation: It’s the ideal host garb for your own get-together, simultaneously sharp and roguishly laid-back—something Noël Coward would throw on to mix Bloody Marys for those guests still remaining the morning after a particularly bacchanalian bash.

The fine detail work of a bespoke Daniel Hanson velvet smoking jacket.
The fine detail work of a bespoke Daniel Hanson velvet smoking jacket.

Not that the English are having all the fun. In New York, Paul Stuart continues to craft stately robes on the premises of its Madison Avenue flagship. “Our Made on Madison robes feature special construction that’s closer to a suit than a typical robe,” says creative director Ralph Auriemma. “Custom cashmere-suiting fabrics and silk finishes in lieu of your typical terry or cotton elevate our robes beyond loungewear.”

But rocking a robe “beyond loungewear” requires the attitude to match—especially if you’re wearing the look anywhere outside your front door. “There needs to be a certain shamelessness in putting on the robe and showing that you take leisure so seriously that you have garments dedicated to it beyond gray sweatpants,” says style writer and robe aficionado Zachary Weiss. “Once you get over that, it just depends on how shameless you’re willing to be.”

Robe aficionado Zachary Weiss
Robesman Zachary Weiss shows how it’s done.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but if you’re searching for a failsafe way to experiment with the look without going full Julian Schnabel, try a sufficiently robust robe worn as outerwear. Gownsmith cofounder Tom Beecroft points to the polo coat, a loose, belted garment originally worn by players between chukkas, which served as the inspiration behind the English maker’s “outer gowns,” similarly unstructured and self-belted but available in substantial woolens or camel hair. Meanwhile, its “cardigowns” ditch the lapels and crop the length for a sweater-like utility.

“The whole idea of Gownsmith is for people to feel at home,” Beecroft says. “That’s not just lounging on your sofa, but a comfort that can be found in great materials being draped around you wherever you are.” In other words, this holiday season, home is where the robe is.

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