Experiment: The Nightgown

Perhaps no article of clothing is more matronly than the nightgown.*

A trip to any catalog-era department store will confirm this. Row after row of high-collared, flannel or felt frocks evocative of curlers and rose-scented bath salts. The wearers comprising a strange dual-demographic of grandmothers and 7-year old girls - females nightgowned in the stages of femininity more concerned with softness and chocolate chip cookies than out-and-out hotness. The little-girl/old-lady set. Characterized best perhaps by the Olsen twins.

And yet. . . .

Something classically appealing about them, these gowns of the night.

Perhaps the name. Nightgown. Gown. It actually sounds so elegant. So glamorous, it makes you want to enter the room in grand sweeps of tulle and chiffon peignoir like a 50s screen queen. Standing with one arm draped over your own shoulder in sake of false modesty, while some handsome broad-jawed bachelor sips a martini. Shaken.

This is truly an article of clothing that always makes an entrance. At least if you are in a Hitchock or Howard Hawks movie.

So what happened to this relic of mid-century sleepwear? How did it fall so far, as to now only occupy the closets of the senior citizen crowd?

So anyway, I got one for Christmas. Yeah.

It was purely functional, I assure you. Turns out when you are carrying an extra 10-15 pounds on your front-side the mere thought of an elastic-waisted pj pant makes you nauseous. You need room to breathe. You need that belly space. You need a nightgown, or on second-thought, a toga. Or upon third thought, a sheet with a hole for the head.

I think the last time I wore a nightgown it was emblazoned with a very large New Kids on the Block logo. And I looked fabulous in it. And that cherub Joey McIntyre looked good on it.

But finding a nightgown in 2011 that felt comfortable without being matronly was a bit of a challenge. Turns out they are very, very out of style. LL Bean carries a few varieties. Lands End has some. The supply at JC Penny could only be described as plentiful. But none of these are what you'd call stylish.

My mother found one for me at Kohls that fit the bill. Functional, comfortable, v-neck, cranberry colored, knee-length. Not grandmotherly or childish.

And I will testify, gloriously comfortable. I don't know why people even bother with the restrictive waistband of the two-piece set. Why endure such discomfort!

I'm pretty sure that when Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) exclaimed "I could have danced all night!" it was because dancing all night in a nightgown was so dang comfy! She really could have danced ALL night.

I say, bring back the nightie. And I really do think it won't be long. The depression-era lingerie found at Anthropologie and Asos (which Jared very rightly calls Miss Hannigan lingerie) has already made its comeback. I figure the flowy nightgowns of Bewitched can't be far behind.

So take your mannish old-navy flannel pj pants and throw them out the window!

Let's bring back the comfort! Let's bring back the glamour!

*Not counting the muumuu, which is undoubtedly part of the nightgown genus, so not that it matters anyway.


Landon & Julie said...

I totally got one for Christmas, too! Landon had to look all over to find one that was actually pretty but success! They're the best!

Karene said...

See, problem with me and nightgowns is that when I wake up, they have always managed to work themselves up to just under my arms...there must be something wrong with how I sleep...

We need to hang out!

danielle said...

AGREED! I have a nightgown that I just adore...and it makes me feel like it is summer outside...no matter what season it really is.

Amanda Seria Cook said...

Adrienne, you are preaching to the choir! Before Christmas I was complaining to Jared how I don't have any elegant pajamas. I hate going to bed feeling like a boy. Old Navy pjs--you nailed it. Anyway, for Christmas he gave me $ to find more glamorous nightwear but I've found none yet (I don't think he dared to pick something out for me...probably would end in disaster). Kohl's will be my next stop.

Kacy Faulconer said...

TJ Maxx has sweet NAME BRAND flannel nightgowns that are so out they are in (which is what we are all going for, right?)

Kathryn the Great said...

Tragic story. I owned a nightgown as of last Christmas. Sometimes in the morning, when it's very dark, I like to shower by candlelight. It feels like I'm sleeping in. Anyway, once, while in the shower, it realized that it was brighter outside in the rest of the bathroom than I was used to. Well, I opened the curtain to find my comfy elegant wonder up in flames. That was the commentary I got on lovely nightwear. Bah! I love it so much...so flowy and feminine and elegant. Bring it back babe! Bring it back!

naomi said...

This. A thousand times. I tried to find a decent nightie both times I was pregnant with no result other than awkward, cotton affairs with lace in unsexy places.
To try and make myself look like less of a creeper - I knew your husband at BYU and he was super kind and pleasant, so when he popped up on my Facebook newsfeed recommending your blog, I took it seriously. Really enjoyed your High School Revisited series.