the more you know the less you need

the more you know the less you need

Dressing For Bed

Dressing For Bed
Carmen Dell’Orefice, Photographed by Mark Shaw, 1954

What do you wear to sleep?

A fellow shopper and I were recently bemoaning the fact that there are no full-length gowns anymore.

Mark Cross

Not to mention peignoir sets

Mark Cross

or robes that skim the ankles.

Mark Cross

You can still find such beauties in the vintage stores

Mark Cross

if you’re lucky.

Carmen Dell’Orefice, Vanity Fair, 1953, Photo by Mark Shaw

I have resorted to making my own sleepwear. I sew gowns and robes from vintage linen tablecloths.

These exquisite table coverings end up at the thrift store because inevitably an errant splash of wine or a drop of gravy has marred its perfection, and, sadly, no one seems to know how to care for—or properly clean—linen anymore. Or alternatively, they have never ever been used because they were too beautiful to risk staining. I’ve found both variants over the years and have collected a rather sizable linen stash. I simply cut around the stain and create a sleeping wardrobe

(and curtains!).

For centuries, typical French linens were actually linen—and often monogrammed. They were so long-wearing and lasting that they were passed down through generations as precious heirlooms. Try doing that with modern bedding. Not a chance.


Linen has many virtues beyond its intrinsic beauty: it is naturally cool and comfortable (ideal for women-of-a-certain-age with sleeping and heating issues); the fabric becomes softer with age and washings; and you can embrace the charm of wrinkles, as I do, or ironing and starching is always an option for perfectionists.

What are you wearing to bed?

Vanity Fair 1953, Mark Shaw



5 thoughts on “Dressing For Bed”

  • My mother was a corsetiere in the late 50s and she always had beautiful lingerie. I remember my first Vanity Fair long gown with robe and matching panties. They used to make the undergarments out of the same silky fabrics as the gowns in the most wonderful prints. I actually have a garment bag at the back of the closet with several of my favorites. Can’t bear to wear them since you can’t find anything even remotely as nice.

  • Oh my, these look like beautiful evening gowns! I’m mostly a pajama girl because I move around so much a gown would never stay in place. I just bought some “cooling” pajamas from Soma as I am always cold at night and hot in the morning (must be all that dancing around I do in my sleep!) Would love to see more of your creations…xo Nipa @fashionipa

  • I never had anything as beautiful as these. But, I remember a floor length peach nightgown and feeling so graceful and sexy in it – I used to ‘pose’ on my bed. (I was still a teen ager back then!). Thank you for reviving that memory. I’ve been looking for a new nightgown lately – and I think I shall have to make my own. I haven’t seen Anything remotely as lovely as these – or even that long ago peach nightgown.

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