Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

The Golden Age of Nightgowns: Vintage Peignors

Today,  let’s talk about those frivolous, silky, see-through vintage gown and robe sets that makes women feel like a silver screen queens. Specifically, lets look at some peignoir sets.

When the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age “slipped into something more comfortable” they actually put on something more spectacular. In the privacy of the screen boudoir, they wore fabulous lingerie, exotic pajamas, slinky nightgowns, silken negligees or, best of all, a peignoir.

The word peignoir, like boudoir or caviar, has that  sensual and opulent quality. These gossamer fantasy garments look as glamorous and frivolous as they sound. They gave everyday women a chance to emulate their movie idols and play out a bit of the Hollywood fantasy at a modest price.

Peignoir comes from the French word for comb. In an era of very specialized garments, it was a jacket to wear while doing your hair. It evolved into a sheer robe worn over nightwear  in the bedroom. It’s usually got a tie so you could be unwrapped like a present. Not surprisingly, it’s meant for intimate settings and has erotic overtones, thanks in part to the slinky fabrics, often cut on the bias for extra drape and cling.

There are some truly notable peignoir decades. The thirties gave us silk gowns adorned with feathers and fur with  matching capes or  bed jackets made for the bedroom

Postwar, and into the fifties, they’re full-on nylon, fuller, more opulent, and, just like fifties fashion in general, exaggeratedly feminine with maximum froth and frills.

The sixties brought wilder, brighter colors and, for better or worse, the “babydoll” style.

In each fashion decade, the peignoir’s trick is in  emphasizing precisely what it does not show.

Here is a sample from the golden age of the peignoir:

Vintage peignoir nightgown and robe

Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Ann Sheridan & Sandea Dee all don fabulous nightwear

vintage hollywood nightgown glamor Vintage peignoir nightgown and robe

Screen sirens Hedy Lamar, Natalie Wood, Liz Taylor, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Veronica Lake & Lana Turner in silky, lacy boudoir finery

I’ve devoted a whole photo collage to Samantha Stevens, the main character from the 60’s TV show Bewitched, who wore an amazing nighttime get-up in every episode. If you could conjure up one of these with a twitch of your nose, wouldn’t you?

Samantha Stevens nightgowns

Elizabeth Montgomery bewitches her hapless hubby with an arsenal of peignoirs. As if she needed to.

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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