By Laird Borrelli-Persson
This has been the year of the kimono, the slip dress, and the pajama set. Now, just as we’ve gotten really comfortable with the dishabille look, the holiday season is looming. Looking for ways to reconcile dress-up occasions with the new dressed-down ethos, we turned to history to chart how the at-home look has evolved.
Now on view in Paris, and coming to New York, is the wardrobe of the Countess Greffulhe, who inspired the formidable character of the Duchess of Guermantes in Marcel Proust’s 1913 masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. The novel’s heroine is the fashionable seductress Odette, who memorably receives intimates in kimono-style robes and always wins her man.
In 1925, Vogue declared the pajama, once a novelty, suddenly à la mode. Within a short time, the magazine would be featuring Elsa Schiaparelli's chic at-home ensemble, which paired satin pajama bottoms with a shocking-pink housecoat. More homespun, and wildly popular among American hostesses, were the simple jersey dresses and shirtwaist looks created by Claire McCardell, which had both the “creativity and common sense” that Emily Post deemed necessary for entertaining at home.
In 1960, luxe lounge looks got a makeover by the Georgian-born princess Irene Galitzine, who dreamt up palazzo pajamas for the jet set to wear to low-key evenings a casa. As the ’60s progressed, pajama dressing was given a One Thousand and One Nights gloss, and vintage, or vintage-looking, caftans became prized at-home wear. In the disco years, Halston’s satin evening pajamas were as smooth as the moves seen on the dance floor at Studio 54.
An avalanche of snow wouldn’t stop the forward march of the slip dress this holiday season. As for your accessories, they should be, according to a 1955 Vogue: “A warm smile, a relaxed manner, an obvious pleasure in the evening.”
Photo Illustration by Eric, ©Vogue, April 1, 1937