Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Focus On: Bed Jackets and Slippers

by Sherri of sewbettyanddot

I sometimes imagine myself in my boudoir, sitting in front of my lovely dressing table wearing a lovely nightgown with a pretty bed jacket over it and some stylish slippers. The reality? A t-shirt and baggy cardigan sweater that was my dad's, worn with flannel pajama bottoms and mukluks (we don't have any heat!)--oh, and there is no dressing table either.

The slippers like the ones that can be made from these patterns obviously aren't really for keeping your feet toasty, nor are the bed jackets much use in warming up your shoulders--traditionally, knitted footwear and robes made of heavier fabric have more practicality. But look how pretty these are...or in the case of some of the slippers, delightfully quirky!

Slippers, obviously, are meant to be quickly put on and taken off, and they most likely evolved from sandals (worn outside) to footwear only worn inside, thus keeping the dirt on outdoor shoes from being tracked inside. The shape and form of the garment we now call a bed jacket was most likely first worn in the 19th century. Also known as a Manteau de Lit, or "short gown," it was a loose–fitting garment worn over a dress--not a coat (of heavy or stiff fabric, so not practical to be worn while doing work) or a cape (too voluminous), it was an overgarment often fastened with pins, not buttons.

 In the twentieth century, these short lightweight garments evolved into lacy or sheer material primarily worn in the bedroom, usually atop a somewhat revealing negligee, as part of peignoir sets (peignoir literally means "something to be worn while one's hair is combed"). The bed jacket was frequently seen in films of the thirties and forties, worn by elegant stars such as Jean Harlow and Rita Hayworth (with boa-trimmed mules, perhaps?). Joan Crawford was infamously photographed wearing a bed jacket when she won her (only) Academy Award for Mildred Pierce in 1945. Miss Crawford claimed to be ill and so didn't attend the ceremony (some have speculated that she feared losing to Ingrid Bergman). She did win and accepted the Oscar--an acceptance documented by the press, who happened to be at her house--in bed in full makeup and a bed jacket, of course! You can see her here.

Want to make your own slippers and bed jacket? Here are some lovely patterns from the Pattern Patter team to get you started--including the classic bunny slipper!

(Pls. click on the images to make them larger.)

Top, left to right: Butterick 3532: prettypatternshop

Top, left to right: Simplicity 7643: DejaVuPatterns

Which slippers and bed jacket would you like to slip on? Tell us in the comments!


  1. Interesting - I didn't know that is what peignoir means!

  2. Love that Butterick peignoir pattern with the fitted front and free flowing back. Lovely and so pretty. Personally, I kind of look like Ward Cleaver in my pj's and robe.

  3. Slippers and bed jacket for me equal fuzzy socks and a hoodie sweat shirt. By gone days. Love the blog post, shared it everywhere. :)

  4. Now I want to make my own slippers! And I love those bed jackets. :-)

  5. Interesting information and lovely patterns. The epitome of 1940s style! Bedjackets remind me of DIAL M FOR MURDER - Barbara Stanwyck's great film noir with Fred MacMurray.

  6. I loved Dial M for Murder and Joan Crawford was such a strange actress. Great theme for this post!