Sunday, April 6, 2008

In Praise of the Dressing Gown

Over the decades, certain items of clothing have been dropping away. Hostess gowns, dinner suits, and bed jackets, for instance, are nearly extinct. Some items, like girdles, I can live without. But other types of clothing I miss. Near the top of the list is the dressing gown.

A dressing gown is a lightweight garment, usually floor length, and often with a zipper up the middle. They're usually cotton, silk, or rayon and patterned with anything from flowers to Chinese water bearers to flamingos. Dressing gowns are made to get into and out of easily so that you can step into one to wear once you've put on underwear and a bra (and maybe a slip, if you're going to wear one) but aren't quite ready to get dressed. Wearing a dressing gown you can make coffee and eat breakfast or put on make up without worrying about getting your clothes dirty.

A dressing gown isn't a bathrobe. Bathrobes are made to keep you warm and dry after a shower. Some robes, including wool Pendleton robes, are for layering over nightclothes to keep you warm as you raid the refrigerator in the middle of the night or step into the garage for more firewood. Of course, some people use robes as dressing gowns, but why wear a heavy layer of terrycloth (probably with threads pulling off it and a little damp from last night's bath) when you could be firing up the coffeepot with a full skirt of silk swishing against your legs?

I have three dressings gowns: a rayon gown from the 1940s, a cotton pique gown from the 1930s with soft, puffed sleeves, and a ribbon-fabric gown from the early 1950s (all purchased at the Xtabay, naturally). I love them all. Sometimes I delay getting dressed so I can prolong the glamour, or I'll even wear them when I work from home, layered with long underwear and a cashmere cardigan in the winter.

Liz has stocked the Xtabay well with dressing gowns. We have a 1930s gold silk charmeuse gown, two 1930s flowered cotton gowns (one of them a comfortable, larger size), and a gorgeously-patterned 1940s gown from the old Charles Berg department store. Add a pair of gold slippers--or, better yet, black silk mules with maribou trim--and you're set to start any day like a movie star.

--posted by Angie


  1. i always love reading your blog. well said, the dressing gown idea is lovely and functional.

  2. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoy the blog.