JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's been a long, hard day, but it's finally over, and you're headed up to the bedroom. You kick off your shoes, start peeling off layers: goodbye anything with an underwire, with a waistband, with spandex. Finally, you're ready for the best part of the evening... pajamas. Reds, most of us have been married more than a few years, so you know what I'm talking about. Does anything feel as food as finally getting out of those Spanx and into a ancient nightgown large enough to shield a family of four? No, it does not.
When I was a newlywed, I had a different sort of nightwear. I'd been given at least three impractical gowns with straps and ties and satin panels that tangled around my new husband's legs until he'd say, "What the hell is that?" I had a few pieces of expensive fabric and lace that weren't meant to be worn for more than say, a half hour at a time (and good thing to, because they were usually uncomfortable in proportion to their bareness.) And of course, I had the pajamas I actually wore: plain short cotton nighties, because I'd been living in Washington, DC for four years, trying to sleep in student apartments with barely-working air conditioners.
It took one winter in Maine to seduce me to the plaid side. All that silk and satin got shoved in the back of the closet, replaced by extra-roomy L.L. Bean pajamas (the bigger they are, the more heat they hold in.) The great thing about marrying a Mainer? You can show up for bed wearing an undershirt, flannel Pjs and woolly socks, and he'll get excited. Seriously.
When the kids started arriving, I got into polarplus pants and thermal tops - they could go from spit-up-covered to spanking clean in just 45 minutes through the washer and dryer. After the baby barf years were over, I upgraded to some nice quality Lanz of Salzburg flannel gowns (my bff who went to Smith swears if you brush your hair and put on your pearls, you can go out in a Lanz.) But you know, it's not like I threw anything away. After a few decades, pajamas are like comfortable, unpretentious old friends who will never let you down. That tear in the leg seam? Ventilation. Half the buttons fell off and got lost? That makes it a peek-a-boo top. Sexy, right honey? Honey? Are you asleep?
People make jokes about writers working in their pajamas. I rarely do, because if you have them on all day, where's the electric thrill of pulling on those ratty sweats you're had since graduate school? So dish, Reds: are you practical plaid or sensational silk when it's time for bed?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I'd like to think that I still wear - on a regular basis - the lovely nighties housed in what my husband refers to as the shrine to La Perla and Victoria's Secret, but more often than not it's boy shorts and a cami. When the temperatures drop, boxers and a cami. The problem with those lacy things is that they usually come off quickly - and afterwards you're cold!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, how embarrassing. I have two Sleepless in Seattle cotton nightshirts, one pink, one blue, bought on a book tour stop in that lovely city years ago. I alternate them, wear one, wash one. One of these days they will disintegrate. But I LOVE them. It's an affair to remember...
Oh, I used to ask for Lanz nightgowns for Christmas when I was in junior high! (very hot teenager, obviously...) I can't sleep in a long nightie now--I must toss and turn so much that I wrap myself up like a mummy!
RHYS BOWEN: Those lacy. naughty things are so uncomfortable. They slip around and the straps get stuck in odd places! Our house is warm so I stuck to silk all year. I have a pale blue silk nightshirt that I love (almost to death because I've stitched it up twice). Silk feels so cool and elegant and just right against my body. Actually I'd love to be cold enough to warrant a long flannel nightgown but my husband keeps the thermometer at tropical levels.
LUCY BURDETTE: Obviously Ro is the most stylish of us so far, though we haven't yet heard from Hank! I went through a long stretch of Lanz of Salzburg, too, Julia, but now I'm on to organic cotton, ultra-soft, Asian-style nightgowns from Garnet Hill. And a battered old white terry robe. It still has buttons, but the silky covers fell off so I have to fasten it shut with the remaining metal stubs. Oh my husband is sad about the drawer of fancy nightwear that I never open--but they are not comfortable!! (and Birkenstock sandals, which never fail to make a superb fashion statement...)
JULIA: Just looked at the Garnet Hill stuff online. Want!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Aw, Lucy, thank you. If I could wear a Lanz nightgown, flannel with lace, I would. But it just seems...well, I wear tiny camisoles and fluffy drawstring pants. (Or camisoles and little bikini bottoms. Is this more than your EVER wanted to know? It's more than I want to know... I too have a stash of slinky stuff, but it's just not fun to wear.) Sometimes a thermal tank and sweatpants. Sometimes a big t-shirt with the First Amendment on the front. What I LOVE? My slippers. I cannot tell you how much I'm in love with my gray flannel slippers. (Honey? Honey? SO funny...)
HALLIE EPHRON: Love that image, Lucy -- black lace and Birkenstocks.
I love Lanz flannel floor-length nightgowns. The last one I had was red and when I laundered it I turned all my husbands underwear pink. I've never been good at laundry -- ever since he does his own.
For me sleepwear is about staying warm in the winter and cool in summer. And like Debs I have 2 nightgowns that get worn in rotation each season. Boring, I know. When it's REALLY cold I add a pair of retired (for good reason) sweatpants. Yes, Julia, the looser the better! And socks. Always socks in winter. I know, too much information.
ROSEMARY: Were we supposed to include footwear? Mukluks. What are Lanz nightgowns? Will have to google.
JAN BROGAN - It's been a long times since I could wear a flannel nightgown. Like since before I was married, which is a really, really, really, long time ago. Sleeping with my husband is like sleeping on the radiator. No kidding. The Go-Green people should be looking into him as a renewable energy source. We sleep with the heat off, and I have to sleep in a t-shirt and underwear or I start tossing the comforter off the bed in the middle of the night. Although, I do have a flannel pajama top to put on over my t-shirt when I'm reading and before he gets into bed.
I do have a stash of lacey stuff. Most of it is uncomfortable, but I have a lovely pale green silk nighty that makes me feel like Myrna Loy. It gets some serious wear-time.
ROSEMARY: I can remember specifically asking for Myrna Loy-type silk pajamas. She really had something!
JULIA: Looks like we have a split. The all-about-the-environment (which for many of us in the Northeast, at least, means keeping warm if we don't have living-furnace husbands like Jan's) versus the elegant good looks group. How about you, dear Reader? Are you flannel, or Fredericks of Hollywood? If we get enough comments, we'll post a pic of Hank in her tiny camisole.
Just joking. We're serious authors here, and we're not going to stoop to trading on Hanks glamorous good looks.
We'll post a picture of me in a giant flannel nightgown and wooly socks.