The words 'antique' and 'nightgown' instantly evoke romantic, Du Maurier-esque scenes in semi-darkness, billowy sleeves, lace and ribbons... In reality, not every antique nightgown has to fit that particular mould. And while ultra-romantic Victorian-styles remain perennial favourites, there are plenty of other antique designs to suit not only different tastes, but also different preferences and different body shapes. Based on my own experience not only selling but also owning antique nightgowns, I've put together this mini 5-step guide to focus on the important features that will hopefully help you pick the perfect one for you!
1. The Length
Before purchasing the perfect nightgown for you, first and foremost consider the length best suited to your needs. Do you enjoy the feeling of extra fabric gently enveloping you, or do you see yourself more in a practical midi style? Most antique nightgowns range from floor length to mid-calf to below-the-knee, so you will find a length that suits you (go for a smaller size if you'd like something more fitted). If you are looking for something shorter, I would recommend an antique cotton slip dress.
2. The Sleeves
Long, billowy sleeves with a delicate lace trim are what makes an antique nightgown truly romantic and luxurious.
However, once again, consider your needs and whether you are looking for that extra bit of warmth while you sleep, or if you'd prefer shorter sleeves (or no sleeves at all.) Regardless of the season, I am personally a big fan of cap sleeves, for their just-enough coverage and also their universally flattering cut.
In summer, a classic antique white cotton slip with straps will be all you need - but even then you'll have plenty of choice between wide, thin straps and anything in between! Often antique nightgowns come with buttoned straps (single or double), that bestow a cute flip-up look to the trim.
3. The Material When purchasing an original antique nightgown, you can be sure that the fabric will be natural - and not only that, that it will also be truly organic, and superb quality for having stood the test of time. Here too, however, there are differences that can make a piece more or less ideal for your needs.
Hemp nightgowns are very much in demand at the moment for their fantastic quality fabrics and weaves, satisfyingly heavy and rustic in feel. But if this is too much 'A Year in The Country' for you, then consider pure cotton (in antique pieces, you can be sure it will always be truly organic!) Choose between thick, to mid-weight, to lighter for spring/summer - all the way to fine, gossamer-like batiste (fabulous in feel, but ultra-delicate and requiring some additional care when washing & storing.) A thicker cotton will soften with repeated washes, and is an excellent choice for the colder months. Like Hemp and Cotton, Linen is also an ideal natural fabric for sleepwear, but keep in mind that it will need a little more TLC and that it tends to crease easily.
4. The Details
And finally, for the fun part: the details (yay!) Certainly no less important: have fun choosing a design that appeals to your aesthetic sense. Are you a maximalist who can't get enough of ribbons and lace? Or do you love clean, essential, no-fuss designs?
A Monogram is a gorgeous detail that will definitely bring both camps into agreement.
Whether small and cross-stitched or embroidered in an elaborate font, a monogram gives an antique nightgown its own identity.
Almost always hand-embroidered by the nightgown's owners, I love how monograms speak of a time when items of clothing were truly cherished and treasured.
5. The Personal Touch
For something extra special, keep an eye out for a monogram that matches your own initials or that of you and your partner...a match made in antique heaven!
I hope this quick rundown of the main points around choosing the perfect antique nightgown for you will be helpful. It's also worth mentioning that I have customers who happily sleep in pyjamas, but have purchased long Victorian nightgowns to wear as beautiful loungewear for cosyness and aesthetic reasons rather than sleep...I think that's a perfect use for these gorgeous pieces too! Ultimately, it's about how an antique nightgown makes you feel (spoiler alert: like a princess :) )
Have fun choosing the perfect antique nightgown for you! I hope you will also enjoy the special feeling of owning a piece of history and looking after it for future generations.