The Iconic Bathrobe of Movie Stardom

Fight Club bathrobe

Throughout the age of film and TV, there has been a certain article of clothing that has had a starring role. Whether it was a movie of the Golden era, or a more modern flick, or even a TV show, this clothing has played a part. They, like any other costume design or prop, helped to make the character, or helped to form the mood.

I decided to look into eight movies and a TV show that featured a bathrobe in a somewhat starring role. I think you will agree that this little known piece of clothing makes the scene, as you can see….


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller Bathrobe

One can’t forget the first scene with Ferris Bueller, where he broke the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience in a beautiful red, silver/grey waffle and cotton weave robe, with black trim and shawl collar. This was a gorgeous piece of clothing, in and of itself, and Matthew Broderick wore it well. It was the perfect fit for such a one-of-a-kind charismatic character.

The scene was even spoofed in the movie Deadpool, another movie known for breaking the fourth wall. On color coordination alone, it was quite possibly the best for Deadpool to spoof.

Deadpool bathrobe

And did you know, this was the first time they actually incorporated breaking the fourth wall into a movie?

It went on to be one of the biggest hits of the 80s.

Ferris, his best friend and girlfriend, just have one awesome day playing hooky. They goof off in Chicago, all whilst the principal is hot on their trail, but getting every roadblock (literally) thrown at him.

This movie still makes me laugh like crazy. All of the actors were perfectly cast for their respective roles, including the side characters like Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and the sister, Jeannie (Jennifer Grey).

As Ferris Bueller stated, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So chill, wear a comfy robe, and take the day off!

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up baby bathrobe

Now, this is the oldest movie I looked into for this article. I love watching the classics, and you can’t get any better than pairing Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant for an uproarious screwball comedy of the thirties.

The premise was all sorts of hi-jinks all because zoologist, David Huxley (Cary Grant) lost his dinosaur bone, and a wealthy and eccentric socialite, Susan Vance (Katherine Hepburn) has a dog that likes to bury bones. And then you add in the fact Susan happens to have a pet leopard named, Baby, and it only gets wackier.

All these antics, lead up to one of the funniest scenes that feature a very feminine chiffon/silk robe with a feathery shawl and trim. It belongs to Susan Vance, but is worn by David Huxley.

David has once again had his clothes ruined thanks to the scatter-brained Susan. He is left with nothing to wear, when the doorbell rings and he has to answer it. The only clothing item he has to cover up with is that very feminine bathrobe.

What follows is some of the best back and forth banter between Cary Grant, May Robson (playing the aunt), and Katherine Hepburn.

Cary Grant may have been one of the best comedic deliverer’s for quick repartee at the time. You should really catch Arsenic and Old Lace and The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer, to see him at his best.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's A Wonderful life bathrobe

I have to admit, I have never seen this entire movie. Now, before you throw things at the screen in disgust – after all this movie is an American icon – I have seen the movie. I just happened to see it in parts.

I do know it was about a man who had everything and then lost it all just before Christmas. He decides that if he kills himself by jumping off a bridge it would solve all his family’s problems. But lo and behold, an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) appears. He shows him his wonderful life from beginning to end. And so, he doesn’t kill himself, the angel gets his wings, everyone helps George out, and so all ends well.

And where does the robe come in? Why would it be a star in this hottest Christmas hit?

It is in possibly one of the most romantic scenes in a movie.

I’m sure you remember how at the big dance at the school, George (Jimmy Stewart) and Mary (Donna Reed) fall into a pool and need to find some dry clothing. Well, they are walking home in the make-shift outfits. He is wearing an over-sized football uniform and she simply has an over-sized fluffy velour weave robe with shawl collar. They are singing and chatting, and he tells her he’ll lasso the moon for her, and they are about to kiss, but… she runs away and from the kiss.

The reason the robe was such a star is that she is wearing it one moment, and the next moment it has accidentally fallen off as she evades the ‘almost’ kiss. The robe was possibly three sizes too big. She has to hide in a hydrangea bush, while George teases whether he will return the robe to her or not.

Spoiler alert: he returns the robe, and they go on to have the most endearing and wonderful life.

Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation bathrobe

The reason this beautiful satin, kimono styled, shorter robe is such a memorable star is that it wasn’t even in the movie, per se. It was known because of the promotional poster.

In the poster, Bill Murray is sitting at the edge of a bed in a Tokyo hotel room. He is clad in the robe and looking frumpy and sallow-faced. Thank goodness he had that gorgeous robe to lighten the atmosphere.

Within the movie, Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is quite the sourpuss because he’s a washed up actor who is unhappily married. He’s in Tokyo making a Japanese whiskey commercial and being paid quite handsomely, $2 million. Two million for ONE commercial. And he is grumpy?

Cue a young ingenue in Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson). She is an unhappy newly married woman whose husband is always busy. She meets Bob at a bar at the hotel he is staying and a friendship ensues.

The movie itself made quite a bit of money for Sophia Coppola who wrote and directed the movie; and it was rumored that she would have stopped filming if Bill Murray decided not to take the part.

Probably the best known conspiracy swirling around the film is that everyone wants to know what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of the film.

I think he said, “I’m keeping this sweet robe.”

The Shining (1980)

The Shining bathrobe

I will sometimes just watch the opening scene on YouTube because the beautiful landscape as the VW bug meanders up to the Overlook Hotel in Colorado is simply breathtaking. You mix the eerie soundtrack in the background and it’s a superb set up for chills. (Seriously, check it out.)

The Shining, titled after the book by Stephen King, is a very simple plot about how cabin fever can drive you into a murderous rage. That, and the fact there is no alcohol for six months, and all work and no play made Jack a dull boy. He just wanted some excitement. So he took an ax and gave Scatman 40 whacks.

Is that too many cliches?

The ‘shining’ was actually the psychic ability to sense the paranormal and be able to see the future. It was the premise for the little boy being really creepy and talking to his finger, named Tony, throughout the movie in a very low and disturbing timbre.

Danny Lloyd (Danny) did a fantastic job and played the part of creepy kid really well. Did you know his parents didn’t tell him he was starring in a horror film? They didn’t want to scare him.

Why is the terry cloth bathrobe a star in this movie about ghosts that kill, and psychic abilities?

It’s because its worn during quite a bit of the two and half hour movie. I think this robe had the most screen time of any robe I’m commenting.

It was a faded blue, fleece cloth with the kimono collar that is first seen worn by Jack Nicholson (Jack). It is obviously his robe, which is why when it’s later worn by Shelley Duvall (Wendy), her very thin body drowns in its comfy size. It actually adds to the helplessness of the character, in my opinion.

In fact, she wears the robe for the last 40 minutes of the movie. Warmth was probably the main reason for this choice of clothing, as she runs around in freezing temperatures.

I think the terry cloth bathrobe was perfect for this chilling climactic ending.

Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman bathrobe

What is it about beautiful women wearing over-sized white, fluffy robes?

Well, Julia Roberts (Vivian) definitely wore this white cashmere terry cloth weave quite well. She launched her successful movie career as one of the best bathrobe wearers to grace the silver screen. And aren’t we all thankful for that?

This common fairy tale theme, though done multiple times, will always be known as one of the first of the great Rom-Coms that graced the 1990’s.

It was simple: hooker meets rich John. There is a clothing montage where he spends an insane amount of money on her wardrobe. They fall in love. He rides to her cheap apartment in a white limo. Picks her up, and carries her off into the sunset.

All she needed was a bathrobe and the scene would have truly been complete.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club bathrobe

Did you know that people actually buy replicas of Tyler Durden’s (Brad Pitt) coffee mug robe? It stood out as one of the best bathrobes in all of movie history because it was so unusual and one-of-a-kind. I would consider buying one myself if they weren’t so darn expensive.

However, if you have an inkling to buy one, look up one of these terry cloth with fleece fabric and shawl collared robes yourself. Christmas will be here soon. (I might have to splurge.)

Fight Club is a movie I have never actually seen. I don’t know why. I think it’s all the fighting, and blood, and more blood. Yes, I’ve seen The Shining (don’t call me a hypocrite) but, it just seems like much more detached blood and gore. Fight Club seems to be very personal?

My friends who have seen the movie told me it’s a fantastically well written movie. I have been spoiled with knowing the twist at the end (since I like spoilers).

I am sure one day I will actually sit down and watch the whole movie, and not just clips. But for now, I’ll just tell you about that really awesome coffee mug robe.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Big Lebowski bathrobe

Would you believe I am actually a Dudeist Priest? You can go to the site of and become a Dudeist Priest for free. I am not kidding. You just have to live by the Dude code; which is a mix of Taoism, Buddhism, and coolness – lots of chill and coolness. (wink)

Who can forget the opening scene of this movie when Jeff Bridges (The Dude) walks through a market in the middle of the night in just his boxers, a dirty white T-shirt, with a terry cloth bathrobe thrown on, and flip flops? This obviously takes place in Los Angeles (my hometown).

Yeah, I’m giving this movie my best bathrobe award!

The Dude, a.k.a. Jeff Lebowski, is mistaken for another Jeff Lebowski. A millionaire Lebowski that has a much younger trophy wife that owes a lot of people money. What ensues because of this mistake is The Dude being thrown into a kidnap plot and considered as a possible sperm donor. There are dance and dream sequences that will blow your mind.

The Dude’s best friends and bowling buddies do a fantastic job, especially John Goodman as his crazy Vietnam veteran friend, Walter Sobchak.

Its just a really dark and funny movie that is on my list of top ten favorites, and that’s not just because robes are every day clothing choices with the characters. I just really love the understated humor of this film.

If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you remedy this, dude.

M*A*S*H (1972-1983)

MASH bathrobe

And last, but not least, I had to mention a TV show.

Alan Alda (Hawkeye) was just one of many characters who wore robes. Klinger (Jamie Farr) had his silky kimono style, and then the rest all had fluffy terry cloth bathrobes, and Hawkeye wore a cotton blended flannel robe with a shawl collar.

The bedtime wear was an iconic fixture of the show, which took place at a med unit during the Korean War.

If you have never seen this show, I suggest a night of binging. it was both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s definitely a show that will make you laugh, and then cry, but mostly think.

The Wrap Up

That’s my take on the little known clothing star of film and TV in the past. I know there are tons more scenes where this iconic fashion statement played a roll. If you can think of any, please feel free to mention in the comments. I am positive I missed quite a few, but I didn’t want to bore you too much with this underappreciated star of the screen.

I’m sure you’re sitting at home in your robe, just reading blog posts like this and thinking to yourself, “I think I’d rather watch a movie.”

Well, don’t let me stop you any further. Make yourself comfortable, preferably in a comfy robe, relax, and make some popcorn. I hope you have a great rest of your day or night, dude.


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