by Jacquie Paredi
Being a “Fashionista” as well as a Sleepwear Designer, I wondered how our preference for our favorite types of sleepwear evolved. You yourself have made sleepwear choices that reflect historical trends. In this 2nd Part I explore the evolution of the “long gown”.
EMPIRE FASHION TREND
From the 1800-1918, (French) Empire or (British) Regency style became the go-to trend not only in daywear, but sleepwear as well. The word “Empire” as it pertains to a garment style, is usually pronounced in a quasi- French way: “Ahm-peer”. Josephine de Beauharnais, the trend-setting wife of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, was influential in popularizing this classy, elegant, or even evocative silhouette. The Empire silhouette can be described as a dress with a fitted bodice ending just below the bust-line.
This enhanced the bust and gave a high-waisted appearance, yet skimmed the body and flowed from under the bust to the hem. Empire styled silhouettes became must-haves in bridal trousseaus and peignoirs. This feminine and unrestricted silhouette lengthens the body and is still a beautiful sleep and daywear trend today.
Schweitzer Linen’s Skye, a Pima cotton knit chemise perfectly represents the Empire silhouette, and hardly needs updating from Josephine’s preferred style. Another classic Empire style, fitted just below the bust and flowing to the hem is Poppies in Bloom, along with an empire styled coordinating robe. Marcie, a sleep chemise with a super feminine lace bust and back panel represents the Empire style made famous by Emperor Napoleon’s wife. Josephine would have loved to sleep in these updated styles which she inspired, which incorporate stretch lace, modern floral embroidery, or are made in soft high tech modal jersey fabrics!
THE BIAS TREND
And just who is responsible for inspiring silky body-skimming bias sleep gowns, chemises and camisols? Imagine those gorgeous 1920’s and 1930’s satin evening gowns worn by glamourous Hollywood movie stars. This fabric cutting technique was developed by the famous Parisian designer, Madeliene Vionnet (1876-1975) who introduced the ground-breaking approach of cutting garment pieces diagonally on woven fabric, called “cutting the fabric on the bias”. This accentuated body lines and curves in a super-smooth and flowing body fit and stretch, without the use of seams, stretch yarns or knit fabrics.
New Yorker Diana Vreeland, the famous Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor and special consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, commissioned some of Vionnet’s bias lingerie. These caught the eye of New York society gal Mary d’Erlanger, who wore an exquisite sleepwear piece to a ball! She is credited for creating a huge trend in not only bias sleepwear but bias evening wear.
Silk Charmeuse (satin) is the most beautiful fabric used to create bias sleepwear chemises and gowns. Charmeuse is woven with long silk yarns that are “floated” across the top of the fabric during the weaving process which reflects light and creates extraordinary natural shine. Coupled with cutting this fabric on the bias, as well as adding delicate ruffles, results in a stunning movie-star glam look. See Schweitzer Linen’s silk charmeuse gown called Moonglow.
True movie star glamour is shown in the bias cut of this silk gown, inspired by the famed Parisian fashion designer Madeliene Vionnet!