Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


Personally, if two years ago anyone had told me that regular two-fisted he-men would loll around on the beach in one of those “Charvet” linen robes with big wall-paper like figures two feet in diameter adorning them I would have said, ‘Crazy.’ But they are doing it [in Palm Beach]”

By 1920, the east coast of Florida was becoming an American Riviera. Journalists followed the habits and styles of socialites, celebrities, and millionaires in this “jewel of all resorts.” Palm Beach in winter was not only ideal for luxury pastimes of international society but equally important, an opportunity for men to express their love of color in public on the most fashionable beach in America. The multihued, vibrant painting Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Ground 1926 by Matisse may have inspired fashionable French shirt maker and furnisher, Charvet, and other manufacturers of textiles and robes to create the outstanding and bold fabrics for the robes men wore on America’s Riviera.

Men who formerly gave not a thought to any color scheme whatsoever, now wear “quite startling beach robes…Take all the colors you’re able to conceive, mass in heroic flowers …, reproduce them on chintz or silk, and you have the effect.” Men's Wear Chicago Apparel Gazette (MWCAG) photographed a gentleman in Palm Beach looking like a dazzling peacock in a splashy beach robe while the pea hen next to him wears sober clothing. The writer for Saturday Evening Post in 1922 observed that it is at Palm where “the most perfect and most brilliantly colored specimens of time killers are to be found.” America's wealthy men felt able and confident to indulge their craving for color by wrapping themselves in silk, linen and terry cloth robes while they "killed time" on the sands of Palm Beach.