Bedtime, it seems, is becoming evermore glamorous. Beautifully made nightwear, the sort that makes you feel like a Hollywood siren from MGM’s golden heyday, is playing a bigger and bigger role in nighttime wardrobes. At Matchesfashion.com, for instance, there has been a surge of interest in high-end sleepwear, while at Pinterest they report a 265 per cent increase over the past year in users saving ideas for luxury nightwear.
Once nightgowns, pyjamas and dressing gowns that sported silks and satins, fine lace and rare trimmings were almost exclusively available from a tiny handful of specialist houses, very grand stores and niche boutiques (La Perla, The White Company, Harrods), but today, more and more young designers are turning their talents to the sleep scene. All this means that for those looking to perk up their bedtime wardrobe there is now a whole group of new names and, more importantly, fresh designs to look out for.
Meanwhile, a few established brands, such as Stella McCartney and Liberty, think it an arena for innovative design. Stella McCartney, who made her name very early on with lingerie-inspired tops and dresses, always offers some nightwear that is utterly feminine, usually made from silk and trimmed with lace. For this season, her most ravishing piece is from the Ophelia Whistling collection – in pale-blue silk with Japanese stretch Leavers lace, the chemise has delicate silk-rouleaux tie straps and silk-covered buttons, adding up to a wonderfully sensuous chemise (£250) – very Hedy Lamarr. For those who love the look there’s a complete matching lingerie set (separates from £65). There is also another slip chemise (£185) in fine silk and lace with miniature ric-rac decorations.
Liberty recently launched a Sleep Lounge on its second floor featuring a gorgeous collection of sleepwear – mostly pyjamas but also camisoles, chemises, cami-knickers, eye masks and dressing gowns all in rich Liberty prints drawn from its archive. Its research found that one reason for such renewed interest in lovely nightwear is that it is no longer the preserve of the bedroom. One in seven Londoners, they found, had changed into pyjamas by the time they sat down for dinner. Certainly the new collection, inspired by the rich romance of belle époque, and which comes in heavenly silk-satin prints, often with contrasting piping, borders, cuffs and lapels, and mother-of-pearl buttons, is beautiful. Pyjama sets and kimonos and robes in silk are £275 or £295 depending on length, while the robes in Liberty’s cotton lawn are £130 (or £150 for a longer hem).
At Matchesfashion.com, the thinking is that the increased level of interest in truly luscious nightwear is partly because “so many of the new pieces can be worn outside the bedroom, off-duty in the summer, in the evening or at home – from kimonos to dresses and full pyjama suits”.
It points out that brands such as Morpho + Luna and Morgan Lane offer rich silk pieces using exquisite embroideries or prints that hint at a decidedly self-indulgent time, in or out of the bedroom. Asceno and Three Graces London (Hortense nightdress, £392) are two newish brands that design both nightwear and beachwear so there is sometimes a crossover from one function to the other. Then there is Carine Gilson, whose craft-based handmade pieces, using silk from Lyons and handwoven Chantilly lace from Calais, are among the most luxurious of all – she makes slips (£990) and nightgowns that are so exquisitely made they could often work perfectly well as eveningwear too.
Over at Dolce & Gabbana, which famously based a whole collection round the old-world glamour of the pyjama in 2009, there are always some PJ-inspired pieces that the designers present worn in surprising ways (a satin pyjama top, for instance, tucked into the most glamorous of lace skirts). For this spring, in among the dresses and the eveningwear, Dolce & Gabbana sent a gorgeous pyjama and dressing gown set sashaying down the runway. The pyjamas were made of white silk scattered with huge red flowers (top, from £1,159, trousers, £879), while the black playing-card robe (from £3,000) provided a dramatic contrast, all of it so theatrically glamorous that it deserves an audience larger than one.
Italian fashion house Etro has recently produced its first bridal collection, which includes a sumptuous robe-cum-dressing gown (£5,600) in a light-ivory silk-jacquard that has a subtle paisley pattern rendered beautifully feminine with panels of lace at the sleeves and hem. Available exclusively from Net-a-Porter, it is just what you’d long to have with you if you were heading off on a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon.
French label Eres, long a name for some of the most sought-after lingerie and swimwear, always has a small but deliciously luxe selection of nightwear made from beautiful fabrics such as tulle, satin d’enfer and Calais lace. While its winter collections always seem more opulent than its summer ones, this spring there are some wonderfully louche-looking pyjamas in creamy, embossed silk seersucker (£600) – very Joan Crawford – as well as an embroidered slip dress (£510) made of stretch Leavers lace and satin plumetis.
While these are the big, well-known players, there are a host of niche arrivals, each of which has something of its own to add to the exotic world of luxe nightwear.
First off, there is Kerry Mounsey, who was born in Zambia and raised in Australia – where the sun shines brightly, giving birth to textiles with vibrant patterns and colours – and whose label Verry Kerry has a charming collection of kimonos that make wonderful dressing gowns, the sort that are flattering and easy to wear and yet offer enough cover so you could float around in them at home and be unafraid to open the door to the postman. She buys her fabrics from markets in India – and the result is truly beguiling cover-ups. Some are lovely enough to do double duty as an evening coat (I’d wear them over silk trousers and a top). They range from about £115 to £120. I’m most charmed, though, by her long Lily kimono (£115), which has fuchsia and pink orchid flowers and green leaves on a bluish-green base. There’s also the Orchard Blossom kimono (£120), made of cream cotton with pretty flowers.
Then there’s Fleur du Mal, started in 2012 by Jennifer Zuccarini, who had “an ambition to change the way women approach lingerie”. She wanted it to be a bit provocative, a bit flirty yet stylish and classy. She’s come up with some gorgeous short kimonos (I particularly love the Haori in shades of lilacs and grey, $595); but also a striking silk-chiffon and lace top ($248) and matching shorts ($128) in a darkly dramatic print of black spattered with huge pink flowers.
Another new name to look out for is Nui Ami, founded by British Indian designer Sanjit Vallance. It’s all UK-made and the range is extensive, consisting of of bralettes, chemises and camisoles, which, since they helpfully come in 13 different cup sizes, could also be considered lingerie. Part of Vallance’s aim was to provide nightwear that gives proper support, for she discovered that many women, like her, were more comfortable sleeping in a bra. “For too long,” she felt, “women have had to choose between the bordello and the boring for nightwear,” and so her mission is to bridge the gap, making nightwear that is comfortable, glamorous, romantic and elegant. Her latest range is inspired by the city of Kyoto and she has an exquisite print of blue and red on white silk that she’s used for pyjamas (£320), a robe or dressing gown (£265) and a long slip dress (£265).
Morgan Lane is a New York-based label that has some temptingly playful lingerie, of which the most outrageously flirtatious and glamorous pieces are its Joana cut-out black daisy-and-bee-printed silk-chiffon slip (£345) with a lace-trimmed sweetheart neckline, and its Roxy blue-grey daisy-and bee-spattered silk lace-trimmed pyjama top (£260) and glam matching Elisa trousers (£328).
At Keturah Brown, a small boutique in London’s Primrose Hill owned by Goug Wilcox, there is always a small collection of luxe nightwear hanging on the rails (often including some one-off kimono-style dressing gowns made from old saris, £175) but Wilcox likes to make things to special order. She’s inspired by “the glamour of the 1920s and the allure of Rita Hayworth” as she designs her bias-cut nightdresses out of pure silk, silk crepe de Chine or silk satin. Almost everything she makes is lace-trimmed (it’s what her customers tend to ask for), all sourced from a hoard of vintage lace she bought years ago. It might be a silk-satin bias-cut nightdress in the palest milk coffee (£170) enhanced with pale-coffee lace; or it could be in pink peach (£220) – a colour Wilcox is particularly fond of – with matching lace. She is often asked to make a set of nightwear for brides who want something different for every night of their honeymoon. One such client was travelling on the Orient-Express, but could just as easily have been an extra in an Agatha Christie film with the trousseau she packed. Wilcox also finds that some of her most luxe lingerie – her silk lace-trimmed camisole sets, chemises and French knickers – aren’t worn as underwear but kept strictly for the bedroom.