Sleepwear designers are proposing nightdresses in heavier weights, with sundress cuts, all the better to roll out of bed and straight to breakfast in
Originally published August 2, 2018 in The Wall Street Journal
IS THERE A JANE AUSTEN fan out there who hasn’t envisioned an alternate life as Lizzie Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice,” at least the Lizzie in the Keira Knightley movie version? You know, the thoughtful, combative girl who finally gets the guy in a dewy field at dawn while wearing a white nightgown and coat. Such a romantic nightie plays a pivotal supporting role in countless period films, signifying vulnerability, rebellion and great taste in linen. As Jane Eyre in the 2011 adaptation, Mia Wasikowska runs away from Thornfield Hall’s ghost in a dirty, white, ruffle-collared dressing gown; Emily Blunt learns she is to be queen in frilly white sleepwear in “The Young Victoria”; and Kirsten Dunst pretty much reigns as the queen of nightgowns in multiple Sofia Coppola movies.
You needn’t be an Austen heroine to appreciate the crossover appeal of a gauzy nightgown that does double duty as bedtime fashion and easy weekend dressing. Several ready-to-wear brands of the moment make daytime pieces that recall nightdresses of the past, like London brand Egg’s oversize white shirt dresses, and Danish label Cecilie Bahnsen’s ruffle-trimmed cotton sheaths. And then there are the actual sleepwear labels, like the Sleeper, based in Ukraine, and London’s Three Graces, which tout the appeal of wearing their wares beyond the bedroom. Their high-quality fabrics and sundress-like cuts allow for a seamless night-to-day transitions.
Ms. Dunst’s nightdresses in Ms. Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette” directly inspired two of the Sleeper’s most recent nightgown designs. Constructed from heavy linen with romantic ruched trim detailing, both are legitimately nice enough to lunch in. Asya Varetsa, co-founder of the Sleeper, said that she wears her own gowns for morning dog walks: “I put on my loafers and I’m ready to go. It’s so easy and convenient.”
It would be a shame to keep the broderie anglaise detailing and playful prints of these midnight-midday hybrids to yourself. While they can of course be worn to bed, it’s au courant to let them leave the house. “They are light, delicate and airy,” Catherine Johnson, founder of lounge wear brand Three Graces London, explained over email. “It’s totally understandable why some of our clients don’t want to keep them just for the bedroom.”
The Sleeper’s Ms. Varetsa thinks the trend is catching on this summer because of the nightgown’s versatility. “It works on the beach, over your swimsuit,” she said, “but you can easily put on a belt and beautiful sandals and go to dinner in it.” And even though romance revolves more around Tinder and after-work drinks these days than fated encounters in fields, you can channel a bit of Lizzie Bennet’s impetuousness in it, too.