Surrounding yourself with beautiful things is one way to bring small joys to your everyday life. After all, you have to use a variety of items each day, from plates and cups to shoes and coats, so why not find pretty dishes or bright rain boots that make you smile when you see them?
Verily author Fay Schaeffer said it best in a piece on the subject: “By using things you love, that you find attractive and compelling, you create for yourself a life you enjoy living. Useful pretty things are an external reminder that living is itself a noble endeavor.”
We can, of course, extend the same philosophy to loungewear and lingerie. In Live Alone and Like It, published in 1936, author and Vogue assistant editor Marjorie Hillis laid out a blueprint for practical and affordable glamour at home. Live Alone was quite modern for its time and still brims with good lifestyle advice (though, if you check it out, look out for some outdated and problematic terms!). If nothing else, Hillis’s plucky attitude toward life and glamour in the midst of the Great Depression is inspiring.
Two ideas that Schaeffer and Hillis—writing more than half a century apart—both agree on: create the life you want, and treat yourself well. Or, as Hillis puts it, “The lady . . . who thinks of herself as a duchess is [usually] treated like a duchess.” Since we are spending more time at home, let’s find ways to feel like a duchess in our loungewear.
Choose a color palette for your house clothes like you do for your outside clothes.
Just as you feel stylish at work in a coordinating outfit, wearing matching or coordinating house clothes can also help you feel more put-together and at ease at home. When house clothes or loungewear go together in some way, they feel a little more elevated. Many of us spend a decent amount of time at home in house clothes in a normal year, but 2020 has increased that for a lot of people. Dressing in a way that feels comfortable and elegant can help us stay motivated and positive, too.
For house clothes or loungewear, consider flowy or soft clothing in natural fibers, such as a flowy house dress, caftan, cotton shorts, linen drawstring palazzos, or paper-bag waist pants. Many fashion bloggers, including Audrey Coyne and Jess Cartner-Morley, suggest turning your older, slightly worn-out regular clothes into your loungewear. This way, you’re not buying a whole second set of clothes just to wear at home. For example, in her April video, “Things I Regret Buying,” Coyne talks about moving a sweater into her loungewear wardrobe because she likes the idea of it, but it doesn’t pair well with the rest of the clothes in her wardrobe. Meanwhile, Cartner-Morley has a pair of track pants she wears at home because they didn’t quite give off the fashion-y vibe she wanted in public. Cartner-Morley aptly calls the loungewear drawer her “fashion retirement home.”
Coordinate your lingerie.
It can be nice to wear matching sets, whether it’s a full-coverage bra and briefs, a bralette and hipsters, underwear and a slip, or pajamas and a robe. It feels harmonious and organized. But matching sets are both expensive and hard to keep track of. You might wear your black bra and black slip under a dark sheath dress to work a few days a week, but find yourself left with yellow underwear come Friday. It’s not that you’re disorganized, though it might feel that way; it’s just that some items, like slips, you can easily re-wear, while underwear needs to be replaced every day.
Rather than wishing for perfect matches, aim to coordinate most of the time. You can still get that cohesive feeling with general color coordination, which is also a much more realistic and attainable goal. Pick a palette of colors for your lingerie that you like and that will work well with your closet. For example, if, like me, you wear a lot of white blouses, blush sweaters, and thin, peachy dresses, then you will need more underthings in champagne, cream, beige, brown, or blush—whatever works as “nude” for your skin tone!
It can be difficult to find exactly the item you need in the right color, which is another reason to aim for coordination between two or more colors. If you choose blush/cream/beige as a color palette for most lingerie, then you will be wearing matching or coordinating sets most of the time—without having to think about it. You could also choose a brown/beige/cream palette, a black/white palette, or a black/navy color palette if you tend to wear darker clothes. Once you decide on your color palette, do your best to stick to it as you replace your underthings every year or two.
Sticking to a palette makes it easier to get dressed.
While hot pink, bright blue, and novelty-print underwear can be fun, it can also add another step to getting dressed, especially in the warmer months when you may be wearing white pants or a pastel skirt. If you replace your underthings according to your color palette, there will be fewer days when you pick out a sheer top but find that your only clean bra is a blue floral. If you enjoy bright colors and novelty prints but want to get dressed faster, you can put a limit on how much of your lingerie will be bright or printed (perhaps no more than one-quarter of the drawer), or you can also invest in more slips and camisoles in a neutral color (although this also adds a layer).
Look for feminine details.
Regarding nightwear, “This is no place to be grim and practical,” Hillis announces. “We can think of nothing more depressing than going to bed in a washed-out, four-year-old nightgown, nothing more bolstering to the morale than going to bed all fragrant with toilet-water and wearing luscious pink satin nightgown, well-cut and trailing.”
While “trailing” may be a bit much for some of us (does that mean a long nightgown, or one with a train?), it’s hard to argue with Hillis’s logic:
You have to go to bed at least once every twenty-four hours, and you will have to keep right on going as long as you live. If you read the statistics, you will find that you spend such a large proportion of your life lying down that it scarcely seems worth the trouble to get up at all. All of which makes it pretty obvious that you might as well make an art of going to bed.
Hillis goes on to detail how many and what type of pillows, negligees and bedjackets you should have. (Bedjackets were boleros to be worn over a nightgown in the early to mid-twentieth century, and according to Hillis every lady should have at least four: “a warm and comfortable one for everyday use and a warm grand one for special occasions, a sheer cool one for summer mornings, and a lacy affair to dress up in.”)
While most people don’t wear bedjackets anymore (although, hot tip: they are super cute and all over Etsy), the point is that you should feel just as elegant at home in your loungewear as you do in a cocktail dress on an evening out. It doesn’t matter if nobody (or only your roommates) will see that loungewear, because you’re wearing it for your own comfort and enjoyment.
Whether it’s lace trim or a satin rosette, details and embellishments are what really make lingerie feel special. To further elevate your loungewear and lingerie, look for delicate, feminine details in monochromatic colors. You can find these details in all sorts of underthings, no matter your needs or style, from bralettes to full-coverage bras, and some brands even offer lace versions of inexpensive cotton bikinis or boy-briefs.
For pajamas, thin stripes are a classic, and you can also find floral pants and lacy sleep shirts—just check out Kellie B. Moore’s piece on elegant pajamas. As long as everyone is getting crafty in 2020, you could even embellish some of your slips or nightgowns yourself, by adding a delicate flower patch or embroidering your initials in the corner.
If you enjoy dressing up and feeling put-together, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice that feeling this year. You may not have as many opportunities to spruce up for dates or nights out with your friends, which is all the more reason to elevate your house clothes and treat yourself like the duchess you are.