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A Robe for Every Occasion: How to Buy and Wear Robes

Dita Von Teese - XXXtian Robe - Toile de Jouy print on silk designed by Louboutin

Dita Von Teese - XXXtian Robe - Toile de Jouy print on silk designed by Louboutin - Available at Glamuse or Myer

A beautiful robe can truly be a treasured item in your lingerie wardrobe. The fluidity of silk... the transparency of lace or mesh... that wonderful enveloping feeling as you slip into the robe. It's enough to inspire you out of bed in the morning.

Like many items of lingerie, robes are both functional and decorative. They serve as both a shield against the elements and a sign of modesty when someone may pop over and you are not yet dressed. A robe may accompany a gorgeous set of lingerie for the boudoir, or worn while getting ready for an evening out. You might want to wear your robe while drinking your morning coffee or for peaceful lounging around. Robes have a certain glamour and mystique.

As an item of lingerie only worn at home, robes are entitled to being a bit more expensive and decadent. An amazing robe will last you a lifetime, and there is little reason to skimp on the quality. Consider the amount of use and then divide by the price. You will find that a robe which seems ridiculously expensive may not cost so much over a lifetime of use.

Robes are also one of those great lingerie pieces that fit a variety of body shapes and bust sizes. This means robes are truly unique in the world of lingerie, where most items have very specific sizing requirements. If you gain or lose a little weight, your trusty robe will still fit!

Shell Belle Couture - Room Service Kimono - French Leavers Lace appliqué on Silk Crepe de Chine

Shell Belle Couture - Room Service Robe - French Leavers Lace appliqué on Silk Crepe de Chine

Over the years, the function of the robe has not changed. However, the amount of robes we keep and the style of robe has evolved.

In the 1920s and 30s, robes were more embellished. In the 1950s, the house robe came into fashion. Many movie stars popularised versions of the robe, their femme fatale style inspiring generations of women. Think of stars like Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight, Vivien Leigh in Gone with The Wind, Grace Kelly in Rear Window, and modern-day movie star Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

If we can learn anything from the glamorous ladies of the past, a beautiful robe is not just a luxury, it is an essential for bedroom glamour. If you can only have one fabulous robe, why not have one with marabou feathers and a ridiculous amount of silk and lace so that it makes you feel a million dollars every time you wear it?

There are many brands offering basic robes which consist of loose fitting sleeves and a waist tie. For an item you plan to keep for a lifetime, I suggest searching for a robe with a nice tailored shape and interesting sleeves.

Comfort and wearability are of premium importance with robes. If your robe is too big and too loose, it will not be comfortable or have a good shape. I also suggest checking the ties and closures. Some vintage robes have hidden hooks and eyes inside, which help to keep the robe closed. Silk satin ties can be slippery and come undone. Most robes have a hidden tie inside, but if you find one that does not, a hook and eye is an easy addition to make to any robe.

Old Hollywood Glamour: Silk Robes

Silk is a natural fibre and is the best nature can offer. Silk has good insulation properties, meaning it provides warmth in winter and keeps you cool in summer. It comes in different weights and may be transparent or opaque. It also feels wonderful to wear, has a lovely drape and reflects the light.

If you have the choice, I would suggest choosing silk, especially if you have the patience for washing silk (you will most likely have to dry clean your silk robe). If dry cleaning is not your thing, look for good quality polyester or rayon robes. Rayon is another great alternative fabric often found in vintage robes.

Myla - Eden Long Robe - Silk robe with Leavers lace panels

Myla - Eden Long Robe - Silk robe with Leavers lace panels

Femme Fatale: Lace and Sheer Robes

With exquisite, contrasting elements of light and shade, nothing says femme fatale more than a lace or sheer fabric robe. The wonderful thing about robes is their size. There is more fabric in robes than in bras and knickers, so there is more lace, mesh or tulle to show off.

The best robes are those which use lace combined with a sheer fabric. Considering these robes are light and transparent, their use is quite specific. They are usually worn in the boudoir. However, layered with a chemise or pajamas in the warmer months, this could be a suitable summer robe for lazy mornings.

Harlow and Fox - Sophia Floor Length Robe

Harlow and Fox - Sophia Floor Length Robe

Heart Warmers: Winter Robes

During winter time, robes take on a different role by shielding you from the elements - specifically inspiring you to get out of bed in the morning and face the cold.

If you only wear robes during the winter months, then consider buying the warmest, most beautiful, and most luxurious robe you can find. Ideal fabrics for a winter robe include wool (cashmere wool being especially luxurious), cotton blends, and velvet or velour. Microfibre is a synthetic fabric but is also ideal for an easy care robe. I also feel a heavier-weight silk can make a nice winter robe, but this depends on how cold your winter is and what you're wearing underneath.

Art Deco Fancy: Printed, Embroidered and Textured Robes

Whilst printed, embroidered and textured robes may not be as common or popular as plain robes, they can be a welcome change. Embroidered robes with fringing (such as the one reviewed by Holly here) are especially suitable for lounging. In robes such as these, contrasting textures and trims are key to defining the look.

If you need inspiration, have a look at Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which is an Australian TV show. If anyone can wear a robe like this well, it is Miss Fisher. Why not be enveloped in a floral garden of fabulousness?

Swan Queen: Bridal Robes

There is certainly a trend for wearing a beautiful robe on your wedding day and with good reason. A bride being photographed while getting ready for her big day needs something appropriate to wear, and there is nothing better than a glamorous robe (which I think looks much better than a 'bride' t-shirt).

Many brides choose white or ivory for their wedding day. However, it is interesting to see some brides and bridesmaids wearing bright colours, floral prints, or even black instead of traditional colours. There are many small businesses on etsy that specialise in making robes for brides and most of them offer packages.

Just a point to note: I would suggest buying a robe which you will have use for and enjoy wearing again, not just something for your wedding day. I believe all the same rules still apply in regards to quality. A poorly made robe will not photograph well and is not worth investing in.

Consider the length of the robes you and your bridesmaids will wear. Short robes may look amazing on a model, but will not look great in person if one of your bridesmaids is uncomfortable wearing a short robe.

Long Robes vs. Short Robes

The decision between long or short robes can be based on the time of year or your personal preference. Generally, choose longer robes during cooler months and shorter robes during warmer months.

Personally, I tend to prefer longer robes for most of the year with the difference being in the weight of the fabric and sleeve length. The reason for this is longer robes seem more glamorous, and more comfortable if needed for modesty (such as quickly answering the door). However, there is a place for both short and long robes. With lace and sheer robes, a shorter length may be more suitable depending on design.

Storing Your Robes

When storing your robes, it is always best to hang them and tie the waist tie. Allow enough room for the full length of the robe to hang without dragging on the floor and enough space between hangers. This ensures the robe will not be crushed or wrinkled, saving on ironing and inspiring you to use your robe more.

Use padded hangers which are strong enough to support the weight of your robe. Plastic or wire hangers are not recommended. Popular wooden hangers may leave dents in the shoulders of some robes. Therefore, these are also not recommended (unless you have a heavy winter robe which requires the support of a wooden hanger). Take into consideration the length of your hanger. A hanger which is too long may catch on the wardrobe door and damage the sleeves or hem of your robe.

If your robe has a hanging loop, storing your most used robe behind the bedroom door is also okay. Just make sure to consider the fabric the robe is made from. Delicate fabrics may be best hung in the wardrobe on a hanger.

What style of robes do you like to wear? Do you wear robes for function or glamour?