Silk, lined with wool, hand and machine sewn
Museum no. T.720-1974
Given by the Earl and Countess of Avon
The smoking jacket was a short, easy- fitting coat, cut in the style of a lounge jacket. It was a distinctive garment since it was often quilted and decorated with silk cord or braid frogging. It could be single- or double-breasted. Soft materials were used such as silk, velvet or wool in dark reds, greens, blues, brown or black.
This smoking jacket and matching trousers appear to have been made out of handkerchief silk as the pattern is not continuous. The fabric was probably made in India for the European market.
The popularity of the smoking suit shows how sartorial rules were relaxing in the late 19th century. The smoking jacket was often worn in place of the dinner jacket for an informal evening at home. It was worn with day trousers, evening trousers and sometimes (as in this example) with matching easy-cut trousers. The trousers on this suit are adjusted with a buckle at the back, but trousers could also be secured by a girdle at the waist like pyjama trousers.
The smoking jacket was still popular in the early 20th century. In 1956 the Austin Reed catalogue announced an updated version of the smoking jacket, named the television jacket. This did not become a widespread fashion as by this date few men felt the need to wear a special garment for watching television or smoking.