Cozier than a Nightgown? As If.

Blessed solstice, everyone.  Here’s a silly post, inspired by this equally silly but fun article in the Washington Post stating that nightgowns are over and pajamas are Having a Moment:

Some years ago, no one is sure of the date, the nightgown died. “Nightgowns are too revealing. It feels naked somehow,” says Drexel University fashion historian Clare Sauro. “The mind-set is that it’s old-fashioned and fussy and seems formal.” Largely confined to the bedroom, the nightgown doesn’t work for work or when answering the door for deliveries, a notion mentioned constantly by pajama purveyors.

Well. I beg to differ.

I agree with the larger premise of the article — people want comfort while working from home, and why not?  Nobody’s more supportive than me of the relaxing of dress standard while we telework.  My work clothes pre-pandemic were a conservative uniform of interchangeable pieces that appeared to be (and often were) direct from Talbots  – cotton and silk, cashmere and wool, all in muted tones, a string of pearls, sensible pumps.  My boss is retired military and we work with a lot of other military people, so our default dress is probably more formal than it needs to be.  But I was fine with it.  Once you have the uniform, you don’t have to think about it.

Waiting for my InstaCart order.

Things are different at home, though.  This past summer in my older home with temperature in the 90s (30s Celsius) and the A/C on the fritz for weeks, my coworkers on Zoom got used to seeing me in the kind of breezy shift dresses that could – and sometimes did – do double-duty as nightgowns. Now I’ve shifted to my daytime rotation of sweatpants and a variety of fleece pullovers and sweaters since baby it’s cold outside.

And nightgowns?  Nightgowns are not – will never be – over.  Nightgowns are the perfect all-season evening and weekend attire.  I have an entire wardrobe of nightgowns, which rotate by season – linen in spring and fall, cotton lawn in the hot summer, flannel in the winter – many of them vintage finds from eBay and Etsy, bought for a song because apparently most folks don’t share my passion.  At the end of the workday in warm weather, I give more thought to selecting the evening’s nightgown than I did to what I put on that morning.  Should I wear the 80s-vintage off-shoulder confection from J. Peterman that makes me feel like a swan?  The slinky emerald-green satin that fits like a glove and makes me feel like Carole Lombard?  Or go a completely different direction with the beautifully simple handmade and embroidered gown from the 1940s that makes me feel loved?  Each choice feels like I’m starring in my own private motion picture.  Do I feel naked in them?  No.  If I look naked in them, or a little too glam for my InstaCart delivery, well, that’s what robes are for, aren’t they?

My all time favorite LL Bean nightgown.

Winters are for one gown, the One Gown to Rule Them All, and at the moment I have … three of them, identical except for the color.  It’s an LL Bean flannel gown, with pintucks (no ruffles!) in a simple ticking stripe they don’t make any more, so my current ones are secondhand.  I’ve actually worn two of them out before, I’ve loved them for so long.  Honestly, if we get to a point I can’t find them any more (although I’m not too worried about that, Bean must have sold thousands of them, there’s probably a dozen on eBay right now) I would probably pay a seamstress to make me one.  They are an almost-perfect gown, and would in fact be perfect if they had pockets.  If I ever have to make a copy, it’ll have pockets, for sure.

I’ve had pajamas.  I like the madcap-40s-movie-heroine aspect of button-down collared pajamas cut and styled like a traditional man’s pair, and I’ve had flirtations with simple cotton tops and bottoms, but at the end of the day they’re too much like actual clothes.  Putting on a nightgown, which I used to do within five minutes of walking in the door from work and before starting dinner (yes, I cook dinner in a nightgown and one of those vintage cross-back aprons) signals the end of business and the start of pleasure for me.  I think if anyone listened carefully while I’m changing, I probably let out a quiet sigh when slipping that nightgown over my head.

Oh, I should mention my go-to-bed scent, shouldn’t I?  It’s a liberal application of this Tisserand Pillow Mist, which Cinnamon blogged about.  It’s delightful, a perfect balance of jasmine, lavender and gentle sandalwood.  I spray my pillows and bed linens (and sometimes myself) and voila.  And — salacious detail! — summer or winter, I slip off my nightgown before slipping into bed.

What’s your vote?  Do you wear nightgowns or pajamas, or none of the above?  Do you have longtime favorites?  Do you wear nightgowns as day dresses (or vice versa)?  Do you have a bedtime scent?

  • Ariel says:

    I have EXACTLY that nightgown in both blue and red. Zero pyjamas.

  • Neva says:

    Nightgowns for decades now. The variety goes from the sexy short satin ones to long sleeve flannel pieces. I don’t mind having them wrapped around my waist in the middle of the night 😀

  • Amber says:

    Go Team Buff for the actual sleeping part! I move a lot in my sleep and hate wearing anything to bed cause it gets all tangled up around me. I love me some high quality sheets, flannel in winter and super smooth cotton in summer. In the winter, I change into an adult onesie! It’s warm, it’s fun and makes me laugh. My current favorite is a giraffe but I have a Christmas number that is in rotation now. I like to wear perfume to bed, usually something warm and spicy. What a fun post!

  • Dina C. says:

    I’ve never gotten into the habit of applying a scent to wear to bed. Once in a while I will remember to do so, but not usually. As for sleepwear, I run the gamut: all kinds of pajamas and nightgowns. I’m a migraineur with a “broken thermostat” so I swing wildly from too hot to too cold, and like March I live in the Mid-Atlantic where our temperatures range from boiling to freezing. Love enormous flannel Victorian nightgowns by Eileen West that could hide two children underneath easily. Also love real silk pajamas like Nero Wolfe, though mine are raspberry colored, not yellow. But I wear street clothes all day long until bedtime, even during the pandemic.

    • March says:

      Man, that internal thermostat flux is WILD. I don’t get the sweats, thank goodness, but I can go from cold to HOT to cold again in about 15 minutes. And I love Eileen West gowns!

  • Musette says:

    Team Buff for actual sleeping – unless I’m in a co-sleep (with a nonromantic bed partner) – pre-Covid we gals used to Air B&B and often shared a bed. In summer I wear these weird little shifts pre/post sleep and in Winter I am in fleece – several layers. I keep the house cool because of my sinuses but I don’t like to be cold.

    Perfume depends upon my mood. I’ve recently been wearing Beloved to bed but it’s got that melancholy note so I think I’ll probably switch back to No5. Me and Marilyn 😉 xoxoxo

  • Ann says:

    I am mostly on team night gown! I tend to wear short sleeve cotton PJs in the summer. Black with white piping.

    Since September I’ve spent hours searching for Lanz flannel nightgown’s in various iterations on eBay, searching for the perfect flannel nightgown. there were a few I liked but I thought they were too expensive – now considering the value of my time and how many hours I spent in the rabbit hole I should’ve just pulled the trigger and I could be wearing that nightgown right now.

    Lots of good recommendations on this post, thank you March!

    • March says:

      Hehe you’re welcome! I have owned Lanz PJs but their nighties never quite work for me, they always have ruffles where I don’t want them. But I think they do have pockets!

  • Kathleen says:

    Cute post, and worthy pondering at home night wear! I used to love nightgowns and love that they are still loved by some. I’ve transitioned to wearing pj bottoms (PJ Salvage) with long sleeved waffle tees for sleep to stay warm. It’s more utilitarian with husband keeping the house much colder than my comfort zone and living in Colorado. If it were warm, I’d dress much cuter. My evening lounge attire are leggings and a tunic.

    • March says:

      Brrrrrrr, I dislike a cold house, and it’s hilarious how that’s defined if you ask other people. Ours is 68 – 70 which is about as “cold” as I can stand it, and that’s positively tropical to some people! But I have radiators, which I adore, so at least I don’t have to listen to the stupid forced air kicking on all the time. I love every single thing about radiators and am grateful (having grown up with them) to have finally landed in a house that still has them.

      • Musette says:

        and this, right here, is why I don’t encourage people to visit me in Winter (besides the fact that it’s boring as snot ) – you could hang a side of beef in this house! xoxoxo

        • Kathleen says:

          LOL! I’m sending my husband to your house Musette! He would find you house freezer just about right! I’m with March; I dislike a cold house and live in fleece jackets as well.

  • Portia says:

    Sorry March,
    Usually it’s just undies or boxers to bed unless it’s SUPER cold and I’ll wear track pants.
    Portia xx

  • Cinnamon says:

    Ah, March, I am so so with you. Night dresses all the way. I get mine (they are all from the same make, The I 4 U, on amazon) white cotton only which softens with time: long sleeved in the winter, short in the summer. I own one pair of pjs which are dark blue with white piping. They don’t come out often. I am a restless sleeper, wake often and do the starfish thing. PJs don’t work with that — too binding. Anyway, Talbots… I never fit into their clothes. I am the wrong shape. Because I’ve worked online for years I wear whatever which has become a rotation of shift dresses/tunics from Boden, Seasalt and thenameescapesme with leggings. I no longer wear jeans (too confining). Fragrance, fragrance … right now, I’m deep into candles in the evening: leather and cardamom and clove and sandalwood from Dryad in Edinburgh and an orange and cinnamon one that came in this year’s hamper from the guy I work for.

    • March says:

      I need to go look at those, you caught my attention with “only softens with time.” I love fabrics that only get better and better. Two of my children are starfish sleepers and there’s always an argument about who’s stuck sharing a bed with them on vacation. All your candles sound absolutely fab, I’m burning a bunch over here myself.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    Absolutely “No” on pjs. No. No. No. They are too much like day wear and get “bindy” at night. Nightgowns are an absolute must and do not go out of vogue with me, and I like the uh, breaziness. I’ll admit sometimes a nightgown is a long, slinky shirt. I love the instacart “nighty”–ha!

    • March says:

      I like the airflow as well — maybe that’s a big part of the “not like work clothes” appeal? In my defense, I am practical in so, so many ways that are required of a mom of four, although they’re almost grown. Nightgowns are an area I allow myself a lot of leeway and fun.

  • Maya says:

    Oh, this is a cute post. A long time ago someone said to me, “I don’t understand why people get dressed to go to bed”. I thought about it and it did not make sense to me either, so I decided to be sensible and have been ever since.

    • March says:

      Makes sense to me too, and I don’t know why it took me so long to come around to that viewpoint! I do keep a robe within arms-reach in case of emergencies…

  • SpringPansy says:

    Ooooh, great post, nightwear. In summer it’s tanks and JCrew men’s boxers (in a small) and a spritz of Carthusia Mediterraneo or Chanel 5 L’Eau post shower. I’d love to find some elegant little sleeveless short lightweight gowns.

    But in winter, I am a PJs gal. I have some old fleece PJs and some old flannel ones. I will check out Bedhead as I’m in the market for a new set. Somehow long, cozy gowns like the wonderful LLBean one you have pictured end up uncomfortably bunched around my middle while I sleep, so I just don’t love them even though I love the idea. Fragrance is something cozy like DSHperfumes Lumiere or Fendi Theorema or lately, TF Lost Cherry.

    • March says:

      Ha! I realize I left out a salacious detail — when I climb into my bed, whether it’s summer (linen sheets) or winter (flannels and a veeery heavy alpaca coverlet, the original weighted blanket) I sleep … in the buff.

      • Ariel says:

        I use my nightgowns as one uses robes. Too many “oops, that fell open moments”! Easiest thing in the world to slip on and off in the middle of the night when a kid needs attention or there’s a weird noise.

  • Tara C says:

    I have two of that same LL Bean nightgown! For winter obviously. In summer, I have several Natori gowns, one with sleeves and two sleeveless. I love sleeveless knee length nightgowns. Of course in the dead of winter I normally add pants and Ugg slippers, those floors are cold. My bedtime scent is normally some variation of vanilla, of which I have (too) many.

    • March says:

      That is HILARIOUS. Although clearly they’re popular and Bean sold them forever, so. Natori nightgowns are GORGEOUS, I have a lightweight one for summer.

  • taxi says:

    For pajamas, it’s Bedhead, cotton knit. 93% cotton, 7 % elastane. Most comfortable pjs, ever.

    Nightgowns? Was the sadly now-dc’d Flax “Papa’s Nightshirt – handkerchief linen. Best for me now is JPeterman’s all cotton Marie Antoinette nightshirt.

    Cotton lawn would be perfect for summer!

    • March says:

      I reeeeeally want one of these nightshirts — maybe that’ll be a treat for this spring! My daughter swears by Bedhead, I think she has several sets at this point.

  • Teresa says:’s Shadowline floor-length short sleeved nylon gowns and winter it’s Shadowline floor-length long-sleeved nylon gowns…of course, I live in a temperate climate that is not conducive to flannel and I find that I tend to get wrapped up in cotton gowns.

  • Calrayo says:

    I love the idea of a whole suite of seasonal nightgowns. I have a few I wear in the summer, but in winter I tend to do pj bottoms and a shirt to stay warmer. I was eyeing some vintage French linen chemises from the early 20th century over the summer but didn’t end up biting. I’ll have to take another look!

    • March says:

      Oooohh, a vintage French linen chemise sounds like JUST the ticket. And even the old ones can hold up extraordinarily well if you’re gentle with them.