Swellboy on… pyjamas and dressing gowns

Hospital stays are less of a nightmare with stylish nightwear

Emma Willis dressing gown, from £550
Emma Willis dressing gown, from £550

Ageing is a tedious business, vouchsafing infrequent and unwelcome reminders of the frailty of the human body… Well, at least my human body. I seem to be spending more time in hospitals. I suppose I cannot be that surprised. After all, while other children were involved in such wholesome activities as camping, the only tent you would have found me in was the oxygen tent at my local children’s hospital. Ah, happy times. But “summer’s lease hath all too short a date” and all that.

I have a terrible tendency to self-pity, so it would be very easy to wallow in a warm bath of melancholic self-regard were vanity not such a strong motivating factor in my life. I spend far too much time thinking about clothes. As I may have remarked once or twice, while my university contemporaries hold the highest offices of state or have already retired to enjoy their vast fortunes, I worry about matching the shade of my socks to my tie.

Emma Willis pyjama bottoms, £250
Emma Willis pyjama bottoms, £250

But this does have its therapeutic benefits. For instance, I do not regard my as-yet-unhealed broken foot as a handicap – more as an opportunity to enlarge my collection of walking sticks. Edward Sahakian of Davidoff dug out a very handsome example from his range of sticks and umbrellas that was the perfect companion. And just the other day I was casting a covetous eye over Sir Terence Conran’s stick, which had a handle marvellously decorated with chased silver in a manner that reminded me of the prow of a Viking longship. It was an item of exquisite quality, but I would have been unaware of it had I not had my walking-stick sensibilities enhanced by my own experiences.

Nor do I see the time that I am now spending enjoying the services of our great hospitals as an entirely ill wind, as it has blown new life into a hitherto-much-neglected part of my wardrobe, viz pyjamas and dressing gowns. Happily, things have moved on since the days of cardboard-like flannel and drawstrings of the sort that could be useful when mountain climbing or sailing.

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On such matters Emma Willis is always full of good ideas and sound advice: she favours cotton-and-cashmere pyjamas [bottoms, £250; set, £450] for the winter, and will tell you that elasticated waists are far more flattering than drawstrings. Looking forward, I really ought to have matching linen pyjamas [bottoms, £250; set, £450] and dressing gown [£550] at the ready for those unexpected summer illnesses. And I am toying with the idea of a pair in midnight-blue Oxford silk [from £650 bespoke] for those special evenings on the ward – you know, matron’s cocktail party or the departure of a fellow patient, whether off home or into the next world.

However, where Emma and I disagree slightly is on the matter of pockets. She makes her pyjamas without pockets at all. This is perfectly all right if you are the sort of person who leaps out of bed and into the day with gusto and relish, but for time in hospital, a well-cut set of pyjamas should include pockets. Although I would not go as far as suggesting a pocket in the waistband to accommodate a Dupont lighter, I must say that at least a trio of pockets is necessary to house one’s telephone, cigars, fountain pen, Hermès notepad (in a shade to match the piping of the pyjamas) and so on.

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On her dressing gowns she does offer large patch pockets as standard, but she completely neglects the outbreast pocket and its opportunities for accessorising with a pochette – though I think I am bringing her round to the idea of it… But I am not sure how to broach the subject of including a buttonhole on the shawl collar – either for a flower plucked from the hospital garden on a summer’s afternoon, or for the chain at the end of which I could keep my cigar cutter.

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