With fresh stay-at-home advisories hitting the UK, Europe and parts of the United States, some men may be looking toward last spring’s sweatpants and thinking: “Not again.”
But those aspiring to a lockdown 2.0 uniform that’s less Tony Soprano and more Noël Coward have options. This fall-winter season is seeing that most English of off-duty garments—the dressing gown—stage a comeback in refined wool flannel, with British labels leading the charge.
Anglo-Italian, which offers one dressing gown each winter, made this season’s iteration from a mid-weight, glen check flannel woven exclusively for the label in Italy. It’s the same fabric that the brand sells by the yard for use in suits and sport coats, and that tailored appeal is intentional.
“I thought this pattern would be a nice reminder of normalcy in what is going to be an unusual season,” Anglo-Italian co-founder Jake Grantham tells Robb Report. “As opportunities to wear tailoring are currently limited, this is a nod to our former lives.”
Fox Brothers & Co., which has milled flannel in Somerset since 1772, collaborated with bespoke shirtmaker Budd to make dressing gowns that are sold through the mill’s retail arm, The Merchant Fox. With the exception of a wild, wonderful and one-of-a-kind patchwork dressing gown, it’s easy to imagine the full flannel offerings—including a classic mid-gray and an azure blue with brown windowpane—in tailoring.
Douglas Cordeaux, managing director of Fox Brothers & Co., sees dressing gowns as a natural extension of the fabric’s utility. “Flannel, in my view, works best when it is tailored into a soft-shouldered jacket,” he says. “Considering that we are all at home a lot more these days, comfort is key, and a gown is all about comfort. The gown is the new work-at-home suit, and gowns have or should have soft, unconstructed shoulders.”
Tom Beecroft co-founded Gownsmith to fill the void between mass-produced robes and the elaborately designed dressing gowns found on the other end of the spectrum. The label, which began in 2018 with a Piccadilly pop-up, makes its dressing gowns on Savile Row and sources fabric from the same cloth merchants that service the street’s legendary tailoring houses.
“We had an idea that dressing gowns were a hugely forgotten about space and wanted to explore that idea with a made-to-order and bespoke offering,” says Beecroft.
In October, Gownsmith launched its online ready-to-wear collection, including “lounge gowns” made from mid-weight Vitale Barberis Canonico flannel. In Beecroft’s view, flannel is a perfect fit for domestic loafing, unlike some other highbrow robe textiles.
“Expensive heavy silks didn’t strike me as the most natural thing to slouch in, so we decided that we would develop an offering based on flannel gowns,” he says. “We want our clients to feel ‘at home.’ Not just in the sense that they are probably in their own house, but in the less literal sense of being comfortable and at ease.”
But for all that talk of hygge, Gownsmith also offers “outer gowns” designed for wear beyond the home. Like the maker’s other offerings, the outer gown’s pattern is based on an unstructured jacket. But outer gowns are made from heavier materials, lined and feature additional inside pockets. They still retain patch pockets, a belt tie and, in most cases, a shawl collar. Beecroft compares them to the wrap coats worn by polo players at the turn of the century. Originally made-to-order only, Gownsmith is adding ready-to-wear outer gowns to its website this month. The first is a heavyweight brown glen check wool with a navy lining and a Tautz lapel.
As an uncertain winter approaches, it seems that The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit could become The Man in the Gray Flannel Dressing Gown—all without losing an ounce of panache.