Readers, when discussing women's intimate apparel, it's important to define terms. Here's what I've dug up: Lingerie refers to all forms of underwear and sleepwear. Originally it referred to things made of linen.
A negligee is something worn over something -- it generally means a light, often lace-trimmed dressing gown intended for the bedroom. But it is also often used to define a set, consisting of peignoir (see below) and nightgown.
A peignoir, which originally meant a dressing gown worn when combing the hair, also refers to an outer garment, sometimes sheer. The word is often used interchangeably with negligee.
Unlike a housecoat or robe, these items were meant for intimate settings and had erotic overtones, thanks in part to the slinky fabrics -- often cut on the bias for added cling -- they were made from.
Perhaps inspired by the ubiquity of rushed wartime weddings (and weekend-on-leave honeymoons) the peignoir set became a popular Forties trousseau item, arguably responsible for the baby boom. You can find vintage ones for sale on sites like Etsy. The robe is usually gathered below the bosom and the high-waisted nightgown is trimmed with lace -- lovely.
No doubt Hollywood helped spread their popularity.
As you would guess, there were many negligee/peignoir-set sewing patterns, many of them very similar. The best ones include a robe; sometimes there is a short bed jacket instead (or as an option).
I just picked up the pattern below on Etsy. It was missing the strap piece and hence very affordable.
While I was shopping for harem girl fabrics last month, I spotted this lightweight peach poly satin at Fabric for Less and I had to pick up a few yards. That peach color screams Forties to me.
Postwar, and into the Fifties, negligee styles changed. The robe became fuller and more opulent, the nightgown less slinky and, just like Fifties fashion, exaggeratedly feminine but not particularly sexy.
Later still would come the baby doll -- the less said about that the better.
Even with the popularity here in the USA of chains like Victoria's
Secret, I don't think the negligee has ever gotten over its association
with stores like Fredericks of Hollywood and Fifties
strippers, do you?
Readers, do you find Forties-style lingerie sexy and appropriate for today, or too fussy and frou-frou?
Do you now, or did you ever, wear a satin and chiffon peignoir set? Would you like to?
I'm a native New Yorker and self-taught sewing fanatic! I've been sewing obsessively since 2009 and today make all my own clothes using mostly vintage patterns and vintage sewing machines. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!