There is a scene in a season two episode of the Emmy Award-winning drama Big Little Lies in which Nicole Kidman’s character, Celeste Wright, having woken late, throws on a sweater and coat over her nightwear in order to dash out of the house. Wright is a former lawyer with an impressive home and excellent taste in clothes: her pyjamas consist of a soft‑grey T-shirt and blue jersey trousers, the sweater is deep blue and the coat is dove grey with a robe-style belt. Far from slobbish, the resulting look is more like a lesson in luxury dressing today.
This scene puts into context a motif recurring in fashion right now: how the bed, and what we wear in it, is informing our everyday wear. Robes, blanket and duvet coats, wide-leg pyjama pants, tunic tops, oversized sweaters, slippers and long silky slip dresses were as prevalent on this season’s catwalks as flat whites on the morning commute. They even come in the soft, tonal colours you might choose for a bed throw.
There’s The Row’s charcoal floor-length dressing gown-style coat; Toteme’s roomy grey merino sweater and wool trousers; Dries Van Noten’s silky eau‑de-nil kimono-like robe; Gabriela Hearst’s ivory trench with quilted lining, which turns the concept of a duvet day on its head; and New York label Deveaux’s caped, oversized sweaters – all of which represent everyday wear with a large percentage of sartorial stretch and yawn. “I call it undone luxury,” says Luke Mountain, womenswear buying manager at Selfridges. “The brands and designers who are doing it best are looking past the traditional signifiers of luxury and focusing on its modern ideals – time, ease, relaxation – that customers are seeking out and aiming to reflect in the way they dress.”
The standout in this field, he says, is The Row. “The craftsmanship, fabrication and attention to detail are world-class, teamed with modest, minimal and considered shapes.” The aesthetic championed by designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen could be summed up by the words “long, belted, cashmere coat” – which is often the key piece in their enveloping, minimalist runway shows. Overall, the dresses in the season’s collection have the silhouette of loose nightgowns, while a long, ivory button-down shirt recalls Wee Willie Winkie running through the town. There are also knitted oversized sweaters and trousers that could be your new cashmere pyjama set. The diminutive founders themselves are the poster women of this back-to-bed trend: they’ve got tumbling, tousled hair, wear flat, slipper-like shoes and are often photographed coffee cup in hand, as if they’ve just rolled out of their California king – but in the most elegant way possible.
Mountain also cites Rick Owens as a master of the undone luxury look. This season, his show featured glamorous gowns that seemed as if they’d been made from sheets slipped straight from a bed. “He brings together luxurious fabrications and techniques with ideas of protection, cocooning and armour,” says Mountain. They are clothes, he notes, that don’t require embellishment to make a statement. “You appear strongest when you’re comfortable.”
Comfort is something Italian label MaxMara has mastered since its founding in the 1950s, and is a quality that creative director Ian Griffiths continues to hold dear. “A good coat is like your home; it protects you and swaddles you in comfort,” he says. MaxMara’s famous wrap coats are even known as robes de chambre – “so the back-to-bed theme is part of our heritage,” he says with a laugh.
The house’s autumn/winter collection presented two new incarnations of the robe: one an enveloping, blanket‑like cape in the softest camel hair, and another with a generous collar in pure camel/beaver hair, a fabric with a dense, short pile. “Both coats have an air of boudoir-style elegance,” says Griffiths, who took inspiration from Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo wearing similar coats as inspiration. The Labbro, a slightly flared, belted coat in hand-sewn, double-faced cashmere, is part of the house’s permanent collection. “You feel the cashmere on the outside and the inside. If you really wanted to indulge yourself, you could wear it as a bathrobe,” he adds. He’s not joking.
It would be remiss not to give credit to former Celine creative director Phoebe Philo for owning this leisurely, comfortable look; she started dressing women like they were on their way to an expensive spa with her spring 2013 collection, which included mink‑lined slides – a shoe that seemed an unlikely proposition at the time, but has stayed in the fashion lexicon. Philo followed those with cocooning coats and blankets as luxury accessories.
This aesthetic has lingered in the fashion industry, but that doesn’t mean brands are merely repeating old tropes. Bottega Veneta’s new creative director, Daniel Lee, is creating a new handwriting for the Italian label. For autumn/winter, his debut runway, he brought a quilting technique to leather – in a neat black coat, knee-length skirt, crossbody bags and even court shoes. The effect was tactile but also tough. His robe‑like wool sweater dress in orange, worn over one of those skirts, reworks the softness and familiarity of bedroom attire into something you could wear in the boardroom.
With today’s political and economic uncertainty, clothes that act like security blankets might be apt. Or perhaps women, always on the hunt for ease and comfort in what they wear, are finally deciding they won’t get out of bed for anything less.