It's all change for bathrobes right now. No longer relegated to indoors-only nightwear, robes are joining pyjamas and silky nightdress-referencing slips in moving out of the bedroom and onto the streets.
The bathrobe trend juxtaposes traditional shapes with striking new silhouettes and fashion houses including Gucci, Alexander Wang and Band of Outsiders have all rallied behind the look, transforming classic designs into luxurious coats. Its versatility is key to its appeal – these pieces can just as easily be used to add a soft, feminine touch to your ensemble as they can bring a maximalist edge or a twist of boho-inspired style.
The age of the starlet
In the early to mid-20th century, the concept of femininity was much more strictly defined than in later decades. Hair was coiffed and rolled, lips were rouged and outfits were meticulously chosen for each occasion. This well-groomed and polished aesthetic appealed across income brackets and social divides.
Stars of the silver screen only reinforced this look as the pinnacle of style and sophistication, and more and more people were buying into the high-octane attraction of the beautiful and famous, as well as seeking to emulate it in their own lives. This meant form-defining corsets, imported French scents and flowing silk bathrobes. Think Marlene Dietrich, imposing and magnificent in her fur-lined dressing gown in Desire or Lauren Bacall's full-length charmeuse design in The Big Sleep. These bathrobes for women were feminine, sensual and an integral part of a lady’s wardrobe.
The rise of boudoir chic
Standards have changed somewhat in recent decades, with more laid-back flannel pyjamas, cotton tees and terry cloth dressing gowns encroaching upon the silky perfection of the old-school robe. But just because we're not wearing them to bed anymore, it doesn't mean that we've eschewed them entirely.
Boudoir chic has been on the rise for a while, with the idea of underwear as outerwear fascinating designers for the past few seasons. In autumn/winter 2013, the Louis Vuitton collection featured slinky pyjamas offset by heavy overcoats and printed bathrobe-referencing coats worn with belts, heels and little else. For spring/summer 2014, Thakoon reimagined the wispy, barely-there slip as a sultry going-out dress. Fast forward to present day and the nightwear as daywear phenomenon has been firmly rooted in the trend vernacular. With nobody batting an eyelid at the presence of, say, slouchy and paisley-printed pyjamas at a cocktail party, the stage has been set for a mass bathrobe invasion.
Bathrobes on the catwalk
Bathrobes have risen from their crumpled position at the foot of the bed to dominate the catwalks. For spring/summer 2016, Alexander Wang sent forth a grungy interpretation of the dressing gown. Sleeveless and emblazoned with sporty stripes, the fluid white silk retained an essence of femininity and served to soften the tough-luxe leather trousers and stacked, spiky sandals it was paired with.
At Givenchy spring/summer 2016, the bathrobe trend harked back to a more traditional silhouette. Long, languid and supple gowns with wide sleeves and sashes trailing on the floor complemented lacy dresses and satin trousers. The effect was a fresh and contemporary spin on modern luxury.
Today, the bathrobe has moved beyond the realm of the unexpected and designers from Lacoste and Band of Outsiders to Ryan Roche, Calvin Klein and Jonathan Simkhai are becoming ever more casual in their realisation of the bathrobe as outerwear.
The robe with jeans
As evidenced by countless street-style sightings, bathrobes and jeans make an effortless pairing. The injection of denim – whether that be boyfriend jeans, skinny jeans, jean shorts or even the layering of a denim jacket over the silky coat – is a surefire way to nail the bathrobe coat trend.
There's something dreamily nostalgic about the combination of a flowing, fluted-sleeve gown (perhaps paisley-printed à la Burberry) and some rugged, ready-for-anything denim. It calls to mind the offbeat, maximalist fashion sense of Laurel Canyon hippies in the height of 1960s peace and love – think Janis Joplin, all laissez-faire flowing lines and nonchalant headpieces.
Cropped, oriental-inspired bathrobes work best with denim shorts or kick-flare jeans. For longer style bathrobes, try high-waisted jeans or bell-bottomed flares such as those by Current/Elliott.
Dressing up your robe
Pulling off a bathrobe coat is easy when you incorporate it into your cocktail hour look. There’s a reason the slinky women’s bathrobe has been seen so regularly on the red carpet – it injects an effortless sense of drama into even the most pared-down LBD.
Where heavy overcoats might risk jarring with a delicate evening dress, bathrobe coats flow beautifully. An embellished tulle gown by Valentino pairs perfectly with a sleek black robe, for example. And if daytime calls for bathrobes in vivid hues and lively prints, the witching hour is your chance to luxuriate in dark shades with intricate beading or delicate detailing. Alternatively, if you prefer a softer look turn to the SS17 collection by Vionnet for floor-sweeping bathrobe coats in pastel-peach shades finished with delicate ribbons.
Bathrobe coats continue to shine bright in the fashion firmament thanks to their appealing combination of old-school charm and contemporary sophistication. As popular with designers as it is on the street-style scene, the bathrobe trend is that rare creature – one that's endlessly adaptable and never restricted to just daytime or eveningwear, casual or sharp looks.