When you hear “nap dress,” you might assume it’s a nightgown if you’ve never seen one before. Some people would tell you that there’s really not much of a difference. And while the two are definitely very similar — dresses, comfortable, designed to be slept in — you wouldn’t wear a nightgown out of the house but you could wear a nap dress out if you wanted to.
In a world that’s been taken back into the home due to a pandemic, it makes sense that so many clothing trends for 2020 and now 2021 revolve around what people are wearing around the house. Because as comfortable as sweatpants are, when you’ve been in them for too long they can start to make you feel, well, frumpy.
Wearing actual clothing not only helps you to look more put together for the outside world, but it also helps you to feel better about yourself and can even help you be more productive. And this is where nap dresses come in.
What Exactly Is a Nap Dress?
The term “nap dress” was coined by Hill House founder Nell Diamond. The company describes it as the “hero product” that’s meant to be worn “all day and night.” Doesn’t the name just make you want to lie down in the sunshine for peaceful midday slumber?
The nap dress is typically loose, but not entirely devoid of structure like a nightgown would be. Plus, it’s made of lightweight cotton fabrics that could pass for a dress that’s acceptable for wearing out in public.
But to cut through the marketing jargon just a bit, I have to tell you that Hill House’s nap dress, while cute, isn’t exactly revolutionary. The nap dress has been around since, well, forever. There have been countless comparisons between it and a Victorian ensemble the likes of which you might see in Pride and Prejudice or Bridgerton. You might even be tempted to compare it to the house dresses of the 1950s, but those were much more structured and not nearly as casual. In a lot of ways, the nap dress is pretty much just a more casual sundress. Nothing super revolutionary here!
It’s interesting how something so traditional can be made trendy so fast with the right marketing and people behind it. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t be afraid to wear what you want even if it’s not “in” because fashion is circular anyway. Our grandmothers were on to a thing or two (probably a whole lot more than two actually), so the more that we can borrow from them and learn from the women who’ve gone before us the better off we’ll be.
Critiques of the Nap Dress
Now, the Hill House nap dress certainly isn’t for everyone. Heck, Elle’s Jessica Blankenship wrote a whole article titled “The Nap Dress Must Be Stopped.” A little extreme if you ask me, but her main issue with it is that the looseness of it doesn’t have the swaddling effect that helps her to get sleep.
But I think for most people, the bigger issue would be the cost, which Blankenship touches on, joking that since the dress is not “uniquely good for sleep in any way” that it can be compared to “someone buying a $100 cotton scrunchie to don for a midday snooze.” And she’s right, $100 seems pretty expensive for a dress you’re buying just to nap in. That said, I think that angle misses the bigger picture of how the nap dress is meant to be used.
The Purpose of a Nap Dress
To some, the idea of a nap dress might sound a little silly. As has been pointed out, you could easily nap in whatever clothes you were already wearing that day or even just change into actual pajamas.
But in a time when the reality is that our clothing choices are more and more about what makes us feel good, having a dress that’s meant to be comfortable but still appropriate to do the grocery run just might be the ticket out of sweatpants and into something that makes you feel much chicer with no added effort required. And in that case, if you love the look of the Hill House dresses, even though it’ll run you about $100, it’s going to be worth every penny.
Who Makes Nap Dresses?
Hill House may have coined the term “nap dress” but that doesn’t mean that casual dresses without the name haven’t long been capable of serving a similar purpose. A simple Google search of the term “house dress” (which is fair game as it isn’t trademarked by the bedding company), will leave you with hundreds of results of casual dresses at different price points that will perform as well as any of the Hill House “nap dresses” if I had to wager.
Lake Pajamas, for instance, make beautiful pajamas and nightgowns, some of which are just structured and opaque enough to be worn out, thus crossing that ever fine line between the nightgown and the nap dress.
But if you particularly like the Hill House designs, I don’t blame you. They have this youthful quality, almost like you can transport yourself into the play clothes Maria makes for the children in the Sound of Music. But it can be a bit difficult to get your hands on their dresses sometimes. They sell out of many of their designs and patterns, so you’ll have to keep an eye out if there's a specific dress you want.
I for one am particularly in love with the blue botanical print on the style of the Ellie dress. I mean, how does it get more whimsical than that?
But if print isn’t your thing and you want a style that’s especially Victorian, you might go for the Caroline, which has a gorgeous puff sleeve design and comes in a subtle white dot print. But be warned, this one is sheerer, so it’s not necessarily the best choice if you want it to function doubly as a dress to wear out of the house just as much as in it.
The nap dress definitely isn’t a “hero product” even if it does have some pretty excellent marketing behind it. But the idea behind the nap dress, of women wearing casual dresses that are easy to move in while still feeling incredibly ladylike as if they’re Lizzy Bennet, is totally something I can get on board with. So as far as I’m concerned, I hope the nap dress is here to stay.
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