Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reds in Bed

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.


  1. Oh, those pajamas are GORGEOUS!! (I wonder how they look with toothpaste dribbles down the front.)

    D'you think people actually wore them?

    Future post--if you all are still around after this one :-) --what we wear when we write. Let me say, at my house, it ain't pretty. :-)

  2. Another Northeast suggestion here: long tee-pjs from Wittmann Textiles ( Super comfy and loose and at least one Maine hubby finds them sexy! Of course my idea of dressing up is switching from sweats to jeans for the run to the post office. How can anyone write, let alone sleep, in restrictive clothing?

  3. You can't possibly imagine how much I'm not commenting on this.

  4. I live in Wisconsin, so cold is an issue. However, I also spin in my sleep: on my side - no, on my stomach - no, on my other side - no, on my back - so anything too long or loose is absolutely forbidden. I have an old, too snug pair of knit capris that I wear with a men's white A undershirt - aka "wifebeater" - when I absolutely have to (as in, when I'm sharing a hotel room with my mom). Otherwise I sleep nude whenever possible, even when the room temp is in the low 50s. Talk about too much information! I get away with this in the winter by using an electric blanket and a quilt, plus a heated rice bag at my feet.

    Now, when I get up and wander the house that's a different story. Then it's a giant velour robe, white socks and Birkenstocks.

  5. Too funny.

    I used to wear slinky, silky long nightgowns, usually with some sort of bust support. My husband finally convinced me that he prefers flannel nightgowns. Which I refuse to wear. So a compromise was reached. Now I wear a camisole (with bust support, because I can't stand flopping around at night), and loose drawstring pants--short in the summer, and long in the winter.

    When I travel, I take black camisoles and long black drawstring pants. Should the need arise to leave a hotel room in the middle of the night, I want to be modestly covered, and to have instant reaction, enough to remember my shoes and purse next to the bed, and a jacket, if need be. If I'm staying at someone's home I also take a short robe to wear over the camisole.

    But I do miss my pretty gowns.

  6. Karen--continued proof we are long-lost sisters.. :-)

  7. I love those 40s style pajamas--always think of them as Katharine Hepburn pajamas. (My daughter is Katharine with an "a" in the middle, btw.) Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet wore gorgeous pajamas in The Holiday, and I do have some nice ones. Only they don't look quite like that on me....

    I do have cute things, summer and winter (Target! They have the best sleepwear!) but when I travel I take an old Chico's long sleeved t-shirt and black drawstring lounge pants. Like Karen, I figure I'm decent if room service comes to the door or the fire alarm goes off!

    I think we should have a pajama party and watch old movies. Could we do a virtual pajama party? :-)

  8. Yeah, when I travel, I bring a pair of black yoga pants and a comfortable black tee. Rolls up tight, no wrinkles, and can double for exercise or day wear in a pinch.

    And I'm always up for a pajama party - virtual or otherwise!

  9. OH, Debs. And do each other's hair and try out face goo and watch scary movies?

  10. Like E.J., I think I'm going to keep my mouth shut -- like I should have done a few times before.

  11. I love the idea of floating around the house in a nightgown/robe ensemble...or sleeping in silk pajamas a la Hepburn. about TMI here, but I'm of a certain age, and I just get TOO HOT. These days, I sleep in boy shorts even in winter!

    Poor, unused sexy-and-cute-jammies drawer--it squeaks when I pull it open. :-)

  12. Oh, Lisa, the squeaky drawer! So cute..xo

  13. EJ and Austin..wise men. Although--we might like some...advice?

  14. Those sexy 1940s' pajamas? My mother wears them -- still, and even at 86, she makes them look pretty good!

    I wear the jammies she buys me -- usually at the spring sales, then gives them to me at Christmas. Oddly, they are not the sleek 40s style she prefers -- she knows me too well. :) But for some reason, I've been on a spell of wearing my yoga pants and t-shirt -- which raises the Q: can I wear my jammies to yoga class???

  15. OMG, what would I do each day without this blog!?! So, it's "jammie" day...
    I have all kinds of sleep wear, some tucked away for so long I'm afraid to pull them out for fear they'll distintigrate in my hands -- that's the fancy, uncomfortable stuff. Lots of t-shirts,(many from concerts or with political statements) short/long-sleeved depending on season. Can't do the long gowns as I also end up like a mummy, trapped in bed while the cat pats me on the head to wake me up. I've decided the most comfy bottoms are soft cotton "jammie" pants from Danskin, Cherokee, etc., long legs in winter, short in summer. We have major seasonal temp changes her in VA. And, every pair is in grey. The cat? She's grey, too, so even though she snuggles next to me at night, I don't show all the fuzz she deposits on me when I get up. In the winter, she's my fuzzy hot water bottle. Oh, and don't forget the fleecy sleep sox! I especially like my pair with the peace signs. (Child of the 60s here.)

  16. @Sandi - I was starting to wonder if I am the only person who sleeps in the nude. Winter and summer, except when I'm visiting someone or sharing a hotel room. It's so much more sensual. You just have to move fast in the 55-degree bedroom when you get up in the middle of the night.;

  17. I sleep in sweats, and tees almost year round. It get chilly on the Northern California coast. I used to love thin cotton nightgowns, but then I got caught in an earthquake in a Burbank hotel, and had to find a shirt quick. As we congregated out side the hotel, I kept saying to myself never again :)

  18. I can now just imagine getting into a long conversation with Julia's husband, who's a lovely guy. But at some point, I'm going to slip and say, "Well, it's like those Lanz of Salzburg gowns Julia wears to bed..." And then things are going to get awkward.

  19. Edith, glad to hear I'm not the only nekkid one here - I was starting to feel a little overexposed.

  20. I do like it today. Flannel jammies are my thing all winter here on the shores of Lake Erie (Ohio). Remember my wedding shower got a few lacy things that I knew I would never wear. The baby-doll pj's were perfect! Never did wear a nightgown...The satin pj's were elegant but still favored cotton/polyknit in summer and flannel in winter.Worn these styles all my married 56 yrs. What is Lanz of Salzburg? Where are they sold? Guess I haven't been up on things.

  21. I can't help but notice we have men commenting, but not throwing down the details. E.J.? Austin? Brad? Two-piece perma-press cottons? T and sweatpants? Nightshirt? Let's hear it!

  22. Drawstring pants (recycled gymwear) and sweatshirt in the winter and drawstring shorts (again, recycled gymwear; or boxers - I still have some I bought over thirty years ago!) and teeshirt (recycled from the gym) in the summer. I have pretty much recycled too-large gym clothing and put it to use for sleeping. Some years ago, I lost a ton of weight after back surgery and could no longer wear most of my wardrobe. The things that were still in good shape went to Good Will, except for the gym clothing, which was too worn out to be given way. I can't stand to throw anything away and I HATE shopping of any kind, so I try to make do with what I've got!

    I stopped wearing nightgowns because my constant tossing and turning resulted in me getting wrapped up so tightly that sometimes I could barely move!

    After reading today's responses, I think it's amazing that companies that make sleepwear for women manage to make any money at all! I suspect that a lot of things are purchased by guys for their "honeys", and then get put away in a drawer!

    Deb Romano

  23. Oh dear . . . in the summer it would be cami and boxers. Or boxers no cami. Or cami no boxers. In the winter it would be old sweatshirt and flannel boxers. Footgear would be Bean camp mocs, two sizes too big.

    I do drool over the Lanz gowns in the Vermont Country Store catalogue. Can't look at it anymore though . . . all those cookies and candy leering at me from the past!

  24. In 56 years of married life my husband never complained what I wore to bed or even commented.
    In winter I wore sweats but they were too cumbersome. Nightgowns got twisted by turning too much. So pj's it was and still is. Summer, winter, spring & fall.

  25. Okay, all you nekkid sleepers in colder climes... doesn't it get complicated when you have to get up in the middle of the night? Surely you do occasionally.

    Personally I feel very silly walking around with nothing but my bunny slippers, even when (please God) no one is watching.

  26. So.... I think E.J. gets best comment of the day.

    And it was an EXTREMELY tough competition.

    Still laughing,

  27. Fantastic post! I usually hit the pjs pre-couch-time if I'm in in the evening, so the layering has to see me through from the fireside to sitting up reading in an unheated bedroom with the window open, to sleeping in same, under many blankets, with furnace-husband and two gravity-enhanced cats holding the duvet down tight.

    I love flannel pj bottoms and snuggly socks with a soft jersey (sweater?) on top and sometimes a padded workshirt open on top of that. But does no one else use their shortie silk nighties, V's Secret or vintage, as the undershirt component? That's my usual compromise.

    I sort of agree that working in your peejes means missing a good bit of the day, but going from one set to another after a late shower feels great too!

    The danger is that you can - like me last week - forget you're not dressed and find yourself halfway to the post office in pink flannel bottoms with blue poodles and "ooh-la-la!" all over them.

  28. I want oooh la la bottoms! I do have NAncy Drew sweatpants, though.

  29. I bet no one wore those beautiful pajamas back then, because you'd have to iron them.

    Oh no . . . my code word is "guilty." What did I do?

  30. OH, dear Reine, I'm sure you know...xoxoo :-)

  31. :) Oh dearest Hank . . . haaaaahahahahahahaaaa!

  32. I wear an ancient short muumuu that was my grandmother's over knit pj bottoms (long) in the winter and the ancient short muumuu alone in summer. It's stupid, I know, but for some reason wearing it is comfortable--in spite of the fact that the fabric has become so thin as to be transparent.

    And I am spoiling myself this evening with a Hank Phillippi Ryan book and saying, once again, to Ben, "She's such a good writer!"

  33. Hallie - You just have to move fast when you get up naked in the middle of the night!

  34. lacy, silky nighties packed away in boxes in attic years ago along with sleeping naked.
    then I switched to cotton knit knee length tshirty nightgowns for years.
    Now it's leggings & mens tshirts, socks all year since I keep a/c at 68 in summer and heat 65ish in winter, plus they can pass for sloppy, cleaning day or read a good book all day clothes when you don't feel like getting "dresssed" or some "day" person rings the doorbell of this "nightperson" while I'm still sleeping, I know I can open the door without having to throw clothes on

  35. I wish they had those PJ's for kids. I was looking for comfortable night clothes for my children. They seem to feel the itch because of the fabric used for their PJ's. I'm looking for one even for myself.