The season’s sleeper: Pajamas and nightgowns that bring you back to childhood
by Patricia McLaughlin
When the first (or next) really freezing day hits, and rain lashes the windows, and wind whips the bare branches of trees against the glass, and you have to make three stops on the way home, and then you have to wait for the bus, so that by the time you actually get home, it’s late and it’s dark and you’re cold and soaked — that’s when you long for the flannel pajamas of your youth. (And flannel sheets wouldn’t hurt, either.)
A few things to remember about flannel pajamas and nightgowns, in case you’re going to be shopping for some soon for yourself or for Christmas presents. (The best ones do go first, and you don’t want the others.)
First of all, any flannel nightgown or pajama worth having anything to do with should be made of 100 percent cotton flannel. Brushed nylon may look nice at first, but it’s only nice and fuzzy and warm on the outside; it’s shiny and slippery and cold on the inside, against your skin. And just wait till it’s covered with pills, and zinging with so much static it stings to get into.
Flannel nightgowns and pajamas should have high necks, unless you keep your thermostat set indecently high. Sure, the flounce-trimmed, scoop-necked gowns that remind you of the barmaids in Tom Jones are pretty, but think about it. We’re talking warm here. Would you buy a winter coat with an off-the-shoulder neckline?
For the same reason, they should have long sleeves, but they should not have elasticized cuffs. Face it — a cotton flannel nightgown is going to shrink a little. Unless you’re very short, the elastic will end up strangulating your forearm, and you’ll have to go at it with a seam ripper your circulation’s sake.
Finally, this is one of the rare cases where pastel girlishness is the way to go. The idea is to approximate the quintessential nightgown of your girlhood — or of Queen Victoria’s. (The one she was wearing the night she learned she was queen was just about right.)
After all, the whole point of flannel is to escape the winter chill of a cold, cruel world. Pajamas that, by their appearance, whisk you back to the memorably warm, cozy little bed you slept in when you were 10 are all the more efficiently escapist and, therefore, all the more to be prized.