The smoking jacket is a garment which was designed to be worn over one’s garments while one was smoking tobacco in pipes or smoking cigars. It was meant to protect your inner garment from the smell of smoke and ash.
The mention of these garments goes as far back as the 17th century…this was a time when silks were being brought over from India and Asia.
The Gentlemen’s Magazine of London in the 1850s defined the smoking jacket as a “kind of short robe de chambre, of velvet, cashmere, plush, merino or printed flannel, lined with bright colours, ornamented with brandenbourgs, olives or large buttons.” At that time an embroidered velvet or silk smoking cap was also being used to protect from the smell of the tobacco.
The smoking jacket remained popular through the Victorian era right up until the 1950s. It was customary for a gentleman to retreat to the den or the smoking room after dinner wearing his smoking jacket.
Fred Astaire was actually buried wearing one of his. Other famous people were known to wear these as well, Cary Grant and of course Hugh Hefner still wears his.
The classic smoking jacket we are most familiar with is made of wool, velvet, silk or rayon. Always sporting a shawl collar and turned up cuffs. Sometimes the collar and cuffs are quilted. They do up with either buttons or sash ties or some of the older ones do up with a toggle (frog) closure.
Smoking jackets remain a popular item in the vintage market, they are often used in place of a tuxedo jacket today.
The smoking jacket evokes a time when men were distinguished and maintained their aura of understated elegance.
Written by poppysvintageclothing.com