- Retailers like ASOS, Target, and Everlane are capitalising on the rise of flowing, ethereal frocks, thanks to the emergence of a new trend in leisurewear amid the pandemic – the day gown.
- “This idea draws parallels with that of a 1940s-style house dress yet modernised with easy-to-wash fabrics,” Kayla Marci, marketing analyst at retail data analytics firm Edited, told Business Insider. “Think last year’s ‘throw it on’ style dresses, popularised by Zara, but with a whimsical update.”
- According to Edited data, sellout rates for midi dresses have increased by 126% this year compared to last, while items that incorporate smocking – a loose, flowing style made popular among laborers in 18th century England -are up 57%.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As the US rapidly approaches its sixth month of the coronavirus outbreak, the pandemic is ushering in a new era of leisurewear for housebound Americans – nap dresses and day gowns.
Suddenly, ethereal pajama-inspired gowns are everywhere, from sponsored posts on Instagram to the debut music video from Taylor Swift’s new surprise album. The spaces formerly dominated by leggings and matching tie-dye sweatsuits have moved aside to allow for the influx of these flowy frocks, providing a slightly more elevated look for those working from home than bike shorts and old t-shirts.
Most importantly, they manage to do all of this without skimping on comfort, which, in the middle of a seemingly never-ending pandemic, is all Americans truly want. According to a report by the consumer intelligence platform CivicScience, an estimated 20% of adults said they have purchased leisurewear since the start of the outbreak.
Now, experts say its time to make space in your closet, because day gowns may just become the next leggings.
The rise of the pandemic house dress
While I don’t personally own a day gown (yet), I was lucky to be gifted a vintage, white silk robe early in the pandemic which has a similar effect. I like to think of myself as a glamorous widow while wearing it, which for some reason provides a sense of escapism I need in these trying times.
Still, I feel a strong urge to buy a day gown, and it turns out I’m not alone.
Writer Rachel Syme was the first to acknowledge the ubiquity of these dresses, after purchasing one of her own in a fit of pandemic-related insomnia. In a piece for the New Yorker this week, she wrote that beyond the flurry of sponsored posts clogging her feed, she was most intrigued by the name of one particular item – the “Nap Dress” – sold by a company called Hill House Home.
“One could theoretically wear a Nap Dress to bed, but it is decidedly not a nightgown … it suggests a cheeky indulgence for one’s body, and a childlike return to waking up bleary-eyed hours before dinner,” Syme writes.
According to Kayla Marci, marketing analyst at retail data analytics firm Edited, the rise of the day gown is “perfectly timed as we hit the height of summer,” not just for its lightweight nature but also for its versatility both at home and in public spaces as loosened restrictions are allowing Americans to enjoy the company of others with caution.
“Consumers are shedding their loungewear and are meeting up with friends outside of lockdown,” she wrote in an email to Business Insider. “Though they are still enjoying the idea of comfort dressing, the time has come to elevate it. With people continuing to work remotely, plus the high levels of unemployment post-COVID, people will be spending more time indoors, contributing to the rise of the ‘homewear’ wardrobe where this dress falls under.”
Brands capitalise on the day gown
In my quest for a day gown, it turns out I have quite a few options. While Hill House Home may have coined the term Nap Dress, a quick search shows that several brands are jumping on this trend. On ASOS there’s a sea of “poplin smock midi dresses,” Target has a collection of eyelet gowns, and Everlane’s smock dress is noted as “selling fast” on its website.
That’s no coincidence, as struggling retailers seek out ways to capitalise any way possible during the pandemic. According to Marci, the “midi dress” – in which the fabric falls below the knee, but above the ankle – is the “dominant dress shape” this summer, with these styles selling out at a rate of 126% compared to the same period last year.
“This idea draws parallels with that of a 1940s-style house dress yet modernised with easy-to-wash fabrics,” Marci said. “Think last year’s ‘throw it on’ style dresses, popularised by Zara, but with a whimsical update.”
At the same time smock dresses – a loose, flowing style made popular among laborers in 18th century England before it was adapted for modern times – are also in high demand. According to Edited data, smocking has been incorporated in 57% more spring and summer dresses this year compared to last.
Marci attributed the rise of “the romantic cottagecore aesthetic,” a style best known for its flowing frocks, lots of nature, and domestic acts like baking.
Ultimately, the look evokes a sense of youth and simplicity – think the Lisbon sisters in “The Virgin Suicides” minus the stifling parents and subsequent tragedy – a source of serenity and calm in these restless times. As Syme wrote, the Nap Dress “connotes both extreme stress and also the cessation of it.”
“We are used to seeing women in white nightgowns as haunted, anxious, skulking around with unfinished business,” she wrote. “But there is also the figure of the innocent child in white, a kind of prelapsarian state of guilelessness and imagination. The Nap Dress combines these associations into a single garment.”
As I wait to one day rest easy again, I’ll be here listening to the new Taylor Swift album while scouring the Internet for day gowns in my white silk robe.