“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” – Oscar Wilde
While many things one enjoys may seem like frivolous luxuries, sometimes they are much more indispensable than we give them credit for. In an age of increased efficiency and constant connectivity, things which are truly personal and indulgent sometimes become what we really need to stay sane. And this doesn’t mean they need be expensive – just important to us and a little bit special.
This is the first of a series I am planning on doing entitled The Little Luxuries, in which I will discuss those things which make life a little bit more luxurious, indulgent, and enjoyable on a daily basis. This isn’t about the trip on the Orient Express I pined for in last week’s column, but the things we can do everyday to enrich our lives.
Now, with the introductory nonsense out of the way, this week I want to discuss the dressing gown. At the end of a long day, having left the trappings of the outside world in the coat closet, something new and special for home is a welcome addition: A dressing gown is the perfect indulgence once one’s daytime ensemble is dismantled, and an easy way to step out of the ordinary. Once required for a man as he was “dressing” (in shirtsleeves or less), modern social protocol makes it technically the anachronistic brother of the bathrobe. Wrapping oneself in a dressing gown now takes on a different meaning, allowing a man to both feel comfortable and look dashing while lounging around his home. Cozying up with a book and a tipple while wrapped in a cashmere or silk gown is a plan hard to beat on a cold winter night. With the broad sweeping shawl collar reminiscent of a smoking jacket, and the long skirt redolent of royal and court dress, the dressing gown adds an air of dignity, civility, and occasion to an ordinary night at home. Suddenly things as typical as reading the paper and preparing dinner become elevated moments in one’s routine – that is, if you can prepare dinner whilst keeping it off your gown…I certainly could not.
Some of the finest examples of modern dressing gowns can be found at the end of the Piccadilly Arcade, facing Jermyn Street, at New and Lingwood; often they are hanging in the windows, with the Beau lovingly gazing at the myriad colors and patterns available. And, since it is altogether too hot for a cashmere gown right now, they also offer lightweight cotton gowns with a soft, airy hand. Then the quite wonderful, and middleweight option, of sumptuous silk examples available from makers such as Tom Ford, in patterns and colors that make it impossible not to feel a sense of romance upon donning one.
Now if you don’t feel like mortgaging your home for one of Mr. Ford’s silk or cashmere cocoons, you can find more affordable examples at many department stores and occasionally on sale in the West End. Mine is a simple cotton number from M&S, and while I can’t say I wouldn’t love to eventually upgrade to something a bit more luxe, it continues to serve me well.
What matters in the end is not the specific gown one chooses, or the extravagance with which a gentleman dresses and prepares for his evening. It is about realizing that while much of modern life is dedicated to efficiency, practicality, and necessity, something as simple as loosening one’s tie or draping oneself in a garment specifically for elegant lounging is a lovely and splendidly unnecessary way to wrap up one’s day.