When summer finally comes, it's easy to forget the past. You know...the ice and wind and the nights when one is cold right down to the bones and can't get warm no matter how hot and steamy the bath water is. Once July and its heat index arrives, winter is far, far away and long-forgotten.
Summer nights have their own silken song - the breezes are gentle and sultry, barely sweeping over bared skin. Here, we are serenaded by plaintive fog horns shepherding boats to their nests and for all the bright sun-soaked daylight there is, the earth still grows black and calm in the evenings.
It is the perfect time of year for flowing nightgowns and bare feet, cucumber-infused water and floral body lotions. Such pleasures we have on dark wispy nights to slip into cooling gowns for lounging and sleeping, especially if they had been hung on the line and then folded neatly and crisply.
Years ago, when a girl was on her way to being a woman, Mother might treat her to the penultimate summer gown, a Barbizon. Barbizon, a company now long-gone, made cotton batiste gowns with a remarkable 100% cotton that was practically unwrinkable. The styles were more sophisticated than youthful babydolls even when they came in creamy sherbet colors. Often high-collared with little ties, they were worldly but without being overtly coquettish. They can still be found on eBay and Etsy these days with matching robes with tags too. But many may find the styles too demur for today.
The Chemise has made a wild come-back. Once worn only as a slip under a dress, chemises are shorter and usually with lace. Skimpy and feminine, they are definitely cooling and flattering to tanned legs and arms. A coordinating Kimono-styled robe would be very pretty for Sunday morning blueberry pancakes under the patio umbrella.
I prefer Eileen West gowns in lawn or knit prints. Unfortunately, my local Nordstrom no longer carries them and I think I know why - they are far to chaste for today's younger women. But is there anything so magically sweet and summery than a charming and billowy nightgown in refreshing cotton on a tropical night? Fortunately, Eileen West is carried online and on the Vermont Country Store's website. There must still be a healthy market for them since they seem to crank out variations year after year after year. They are so elegant and classically feminine.
So many women wear t-shirts to bed these days and usually the clean-your-car-with kind. My grandmother would be horrified to be sure. And I ask you, where in the scope of your busy lives is there ever a chance to wear laces, spaghetti straps, and flounces than in your nightwear choice? In my mind, a nightgown is a delightful pleasure on a summer night, whether you prefer a vintage negligee from the '60's - the very era of flounce-making, an alluring chemise of body-hugging stretch lace, or a more time-honored and effortless gown of sweeping cotton? Wearing my nightgown makes me feel like a to-the-manor born character in Poldark or one of Jane Austen's Bennett sisters.