Ten of the Best Sleepwear Moments on Film

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The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides, 2000(Film still)

We remember some of the most fashionably sultry pyjamas to have graced the big screen – and examine the S/S17 collections that have paid tribute to their allure

Having been deemed suitable attire for the outside world, pyjamas have crowded the catwalks for several seasons now – but for S/S17, designers shared a particular penchant for ultra luxurious boudoir wear. It’s not just Chanel and Prada playing with silk slips and marabou trims: such frou-frou fripperies were a recurring reference for the newer labels like Sies Marjan and A.W.A.K.E, too. Here, we take a look back at the silver screen sirens who might have inspired some of our favourite collections; those who have us longing for a bit old-school sensuality to be reflected through our new season purchases.

1. Anne Bancroft in The Graduate
Mike Nichols’ 1967 masterpiece pitches the young pastel-clad Elaine against her mother, Mrs Robinson, in a bid for college grad Ben Braddock’s affections. Bancroft’s literally cougar-printed capsule wardrobe is the enchanting antithesis of her sweet daughter’s: mahogany tan lines, black satin robes, caramel coiffed hair and sheer stockings all make for an unapologetically alluring look. Alexander Wang’s satin minis closely resemble Mrs R’s lace-trimmed underskirts and, teamed with bralettes and fur, offer a modernised take on seductress style.

2. Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight
We are introduced to Jean Harlow’s character, Kitty Packard, in bed. Adored and indulged by both her husband and lover, Packard reclines in a pleated tulle gown; ostrich feathers billow from vases either side of her bed which is framed as if a theatre stage with staggered silk drapes hung all around. She steps into a sequinned robe with feathered sleeves; it’s an ultra art deco affair, undeniably indulgent. For S/S17, Prada presented a pair perfect of lemon yellow chinoiserie pyjamas – but, though reminiscent of the age of Dinner at Eight’s, the Prada collection is future-proofed thanks to foamy graphic belts and rubberised slides. Similarly, the feather-trimmed coats harked back to the 20s, too but their space-ready velcro straps ensure that we are simultaneously strapped in and soothed: certainly ready for 2017.

3. Lauren Bacall in ​The Big Sleep
Vivian Rutledge, played by Bacall, boasts a beret and houndstooth-filled wardrobe in this Raymond Chandler adaptation. Costume designer Leah Rhodes painted the portrait of a serious and sophisticated older sister, charged with clearing up a mob-led mess of blackmail and gambling on behalf of her younger sister, Carmen. In a charmeuse silk robe, Rutledge emerges from bed cool, collected and above all, elegant. Today, sleek simplicity comes by way of slinky satin from Sies Marjan but with less formality and volume. It’s a louche look that designers are opting for this season, though no less luxe.

4. Charlotte Rampling in The Damned
Rampling looks nothing short of exquisite in Luchino Visconti’s 1969 feature The Damned. Her bone structure is unparallelled in its perfection, and her swan-like neck and narrow shoulders bring to life the fine-breeding of the noble Von Essenbeck family. Set in 1934, during the Nazi uprising – that which sees the downfall of her family – Rampling’s character Elizabeth Thallman models neatly wrought waves by day, married with delicate lace and strings of pearls. By night she wears a streamlined satin slip, in snow white, so pure that it foreshadows the wrongful conviction that later condemns her to death. For those looking to channel her 30s appeal, Victoria Beckham S/S17 saw satin straps wrap around the body in the same nod to nighttime corsetry.

5. Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story
Running away from her husband to Palm Beach, Colbert’s Gerry Jeffers makes one of the earliest cinematic cases for borrowing men’s sleepwear (Sophia Loren famously offered another). Having lost her suitcase on a detaching train carriage, Jeffers is offered a set of oversized striped pyjamas by a chorus of admiring fellow passengers. Such enlarged proportions and graphic stripes are apparent for S/S17 too, with brands like Undercover and Mulberry to thank for brilliantly modern interpretations of traditional sleepwear.

6. Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo & Juliet
Though it’s not nightwear, DiCaprio’s Hawaiian shirt and its Japanese cherry blossom print inspired all kinds of kimono-esque inspiration in the 90s and beyond. This season, the A.W.A.K.E. breed of boudoir wear banks on fashion’s current foray into that same era. Complete with overblown traditional chrysanthemum prints and softly slinky silhouettes, they effuse modern luxury: literally effortless, they can be slung on over anything.

7. Grace Kelly in Rear Window
It’s only fitting that high society fashion consultant Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly, should look so polished in her nightwear in Rear Window – but then again so does her photographer boyfriend Jeff (James Stewart). After breaking his leg, professional photographer Jeff is bound to his wheelchair from where he spends several days looking out of his window; in doing so Jeff believes he spies a neighbour killing his wife and thus, the plot thickens. Bed-bound it may appear, but Kelly’s nightwear is worthy of the red carpet – and Chanel had a particularly good blue suit this season that bore parity to its appeal.

8. Laura Antonelli in L’Innocente
Publicly humiliated by her adulterous husband, it takes Antonelli’s delicate Giuliana to indulge in an extramarital affair of her own before she regains his affections. Her becoming pregnant with an illegitimate son, however, challenges her husband’s newly rekindled passions and makes for a lot of bed-based scenes with charming nightwear. Chauvinism and hypocrisy are punctuated by fin-de-siècle costumes and delicate lace in this, Visconti’s last film. Fendi’s pretty petticoats for S/S17 make a case for staying clandestine under the covers, too.

9. Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express
A ruff made of black fighting cock feathers and a dark veil embellish courtesan Shanghai Lily (Dietrich)’s entrance in Sternberg’s 1932 movie. And while marabou-trimmed robes abound in her sleeper carriage, it’s her Chinese silk kimonos that chime with the S/S17 mood. Attico’s finely embroidered silk kimonos tap into our current desire for sensual textures and the robe-as-dress – but we’d happily channel Dietrich for all eternity.

10. Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides
Costume is essential to Sofia Coppola’s first film, an ode to adolescent disillusion: the swathes of cloth of the sisters’ dowdy nighties are almost identical to their swaddling prom dresses, as designed by their controlling and hyper-religious mother. Though steeped in the era of this film’s setting, the girl’s 70s smock shapes and almost imperceptible ditzy print offer endless inspiration. As such, Giambattista Valli and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi offer long, romantic gowns, redolent of this iconic movie and suitably befitting Air albums played on loop.