The coolest girls we know are wearing garters outside FYI.
My first piece of advice for anyone looking to venture into Vintage Clothing is always: Wear the Beautiful Thing.
Just Wear the Beautiful Thing — no matter what anybody else says.
Don’t feel embarrassed by how much you’ll “stand out.” Don’t feel pressured to “modernize” your look by pairing it with jeans and a white T-shirt. Don’t succumb to the choir of parents, peers, and perfect strangers all telling you: “No! You can’t wear your nightgowns outside!”
I’m here to tell you that yes, you can. You can wear them outside. Life is too short to let your beautiful, showstopping garments rot away in the closet. Wear the Beautiful Thing!
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get on to some practical styling advice.
The first thing you want to consider is comfort. As much as we can delude ourselves into thinking that we’re these tough Glamour Warriors who can wear any garment no matter how restrictive, no matter how itchy, no matter how scratchy — the truth is, if it’s not comfortable, you’re not going to reach for it.
My tried-and-true favorite brand of Vintage Nightgown is Olga Bodysilk. They’re mostly from the ‘70s and ‘80s (the Spandex Golden Years), so they’re stretchy and comfy and oh-so-gorgeous.
You can wear these on their own or with a peignoir (which is just a fancy robe). Sometimes you can buy the nightgowns in a set with a matching peignoir — but I love to mix and match with one from a more fluffy, chiffon era like the ‘50s or ‘60s.
I got this mint green chiffon set from an eBay auction (a lot of 10 dresses for $100, you really can’t beat it). It’s from the 1960s and fulfills all of my Priscilla by Sofia Coppola fantasies.
You can always tone down the fluffiness of your nightgown with a fur coat. Mine is a Grandella Faux Fur from the ‘60s. I got it on Goodwill Auctions — which, if you haven’t heard of this treasure trove of a website yet, you gotta check it out. It is the place to go for Vintage finds. I got this coat for only $14!
Goodwill Auctions is also an incredible place to find accessories! They have a whole section devoted to Brooches and Pins that I have bookmarked straight to my computer browser because I visit it so often.
Brooches are the true secret to Vintage Nightgown versatility. Sure, you can pin them to your lapel for a little added flair, but you can also bustle up the hem of your dress and pin it to your hip — changing the silhouette dramatically. Or you can drape a sweater over your shoulders and pin the sleeves together in the front and suddenly, boom, the neckline is more modest. Now you can wear it to work!
This next piece of advice is for the more Daring among us — but I think one of the great joys of Vintage Nightgown Dressing is playing with sheerness. If you’re a lingerie lover like me, then you know the struggle of trying to find a tasteful opportunity to showcase your sets.
Vintage Nightgowns, especially ones from the ‘30s and ‘40s, have this delicious level of sheerness that isn’t quite replicable in modern garments. It’s a combination of a dress that was initially made to be quite opaque, that has then been worn down over decades into a gown with just a hint of translucency.
That’s a really tough line to walk — because you don’t want to be walking around town with your panties hangin’ out — but maybe seeing a whisper of your garter set won’t hurt anybody!
My favorite lingerie sets to wear are from Dita Von Teese. They are just the perfect, 1940s-inspired shape and are made out of such fine fabric. It feels like a true luxury to wear them. I buy my stockings from Playful Promises, as they are one of the only brands that make genuine Plus Size Hosiery (it’s tough out here for us Thick Thighed Ladies!) and I get all my Longline Bullet Bras from Rago.
What you wear underneath your Nightgown is critical to the final look. We want to be elevating the Nightgown, cherishing the specialness of vintage craftsmanship. We don’t want to look like we threw on our Cookie Monster pajama pants for a Walmart run — so don’t skimp on the underpinnings.
Above all else: don’t be afraid to dress differently from the crowd. I know there can be a real pressure to conform and even a slight fear of being seen as a “spectacle” while you’re just walking around living your daily life — hell, it’s the reason I haven’t been able to fully get into wearing hats! I just feel too goofy!
But ultimately, they’re just clothes. Wear what you like. Wear what makes you feel good. Wear what feels authentic to you. To hell with what everyone else thinks. 🌀
Kaitlin Owens is a vintage fashion writer, movie buff, lover of good eats, and a women’s size 7.5 (if any shoe brands are reading). She is the Editor-in-Chief of Dilettante Magazine. You can find her on socials @magdilettante.