Saturday, November 19, 2011

Life's Lost Little Luxuries #4: The Bed Jacket

"Will the meeting come to order?"

The bed jacket disappeared before I was ever grown up enough to want it. My mother did have one though. It was summer sky pale blue, quilted of the softest silk with a white satin ribbon tie. It was in pristine condition— because she never wore it! Wait, that's not true. I did see her wear it once. She had broken her ankle and was laid up in bed on the day of the regional girl scout leaders' meeting. Mother was the chairwoman, and the meeting was scheduled at our house. She held court in her bedroom and wore the bed jacket. It was truly one of her finest hours.

Even when we kids were sick and had perks like all meals in bed and playing with the ivory mah jong set, no one got to wear the bed jacket. It must be in bed jacket heaven now, with all its many friends— lowly and glamorous— as you never ever see a bed jacket anymore.

When you think about it, a bed jacket is a very practical garment. It's difficult to prop yourself up in bed on a chilly Texas night (yes we have them), get settled under a quilt and have your arms free to turn the pages of your book. Please don't tell me that's why the Snuggie was invented. You can't really wear a Snuggie into bed. The bed jacket's short length and roomy, almost cape-like cut makes it easy to put on and take off in bed. Not much history of the garment exists, though it would seem to originate from a practical need to keep warm. The bed-jacket was celebrated in movies of the 1930's, where it was practically a co-star with glamorous actresses in luxurious settings. The ostrich feather, swan's down, lace and tulle versions were mostly Hollywood conceits. But the bed jacket was always very feminine with bows, ruffles and lace. Here are some beauties from the costume collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dating from the '20s through the '50s:


While we might re-think the dressing table (#1), take a bubble bath (#2), even sport a hankie (#3) my guess is life's lost little luxury #4, the bed jacket, will not take the place of my well-worn University of Michigan zip-up hoodie stashed behind the nightstand for those (yes we have them) chilly Texas nights.

9 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, I was just thinking about this a few days ago!!! I had a bed jacket in/around '61. I bought it at Bloomingdale's, a ridiculous impulse in a longing for some other kind of life style than that I was actually living. I don't remember ever wearing it. I just stroked it every so often. It was pale pink, quilted and very luxe.... Where it is now is a mystery!

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  2. Did you also have a bed tray with pockets for magazines and the paper? Breakfast in bed and bed jackets seem to go together.

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  3. I do, I do! :-) The tray was among wonderful 1930s stuff I inherited after an Audrey Hepburn look-alike older friend died. Adelaide had great taste in fashion and decor, though not everyone appreciated it.

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  4. What a lovely friend and how nice that you appreciated her. I am seriously going to be on the lookout for a bed jacket! Like I said, most of them should be in pristine condition.

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  5. eBay, bien sur! There's a nice white satin one on there right now ... and then you have to get someone to bring you things and let you have the remote....

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  6. I'm watching an episode of The Andy Griffith Show called "The Bed Jacket," wanted to find out more about them, and here I am!

    (My own version of that University of Michigan hoodie is the locally-de rigueur black velour one.)

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    1. I still think they're a good idea that needs to be brought back from the department of retired attire. Dolce & Gabbana will do one, and we'll all want it!

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    2. Lol...I actually wound up here after watching that same Andy Griffith episode��

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  7. Lol...I actually wound up here after watching that same Andy Griffith episode :)

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