A literary guide to luxury bathrobes
glorious loungewear for a quite useless holiday
I want to be clear from the outset that this is a serious post! There is something inherently literary about luxury bathrobes, both in their suitability to the act of reading and as totemic objects of leisure in and of themselves. Categorically, they have a paradoxical quality. Robes are domestic articles that are meant to be seen; the public cloak of the private sphere. As such, choice ones manage to circumvent the standard tradeoffs of fashion, being both sexy and comfortable, “quite useless” but also indispensable. They flaunt the rules of glamour, too. Glamour almost always dissipates with intimacy, but luxury robes feel both glamorous and intimate at once. What robes really do, though, is imply intimacy while tantalizingly denying it. One sumptuous beauty conceals another, they suggest with a wink. However gorgeous a robe might be, its true allure lies in the precarity of this concealment—the theoretical ease with which it might fall to the floor. Now, tell me that’s not poetic!
The word “bathrobe” appears in the novel ten times—short of, for instance, the twenty-three times it appears in The Secret History—but a substantial number nonetheless, and with direct, not incidental treatment:
— . . . I’m not exaggerating—Wes’s mother owns a ten-thousand-dollar bathrobe. It’s from Loro Piana and made of vicuña, which, I have since learned, is some rarefied South American mega-soft camel species that can only be shorn every three years. I mean, I’d known about diamonds and rubies, minks and cashmeres, but these were luxuries in the context of special occasions, even for the wealthy—or so I thought—things you’d bring out for a black-tie gala, a state dinner maybe, or a society wedding. But a ten-thousand-dollar bathrobe suggests an exponential nature to banalities. Once you can conceptualize that there’s a ten-thousand-dollar bathrobe, that such a thing can possibly exist, you just know that somewhere out there, there is a hundred-thousand-dollar bathrobe, a million-dollar one even.
—Thanks to my future wife, I’ve had dinner with enough experts in sixteenth-century Chinese textiles to know that million-dollar bathrobes do, in fact, exist.
Perhaps the following recommendations have been considered with rather more thought and care than is particularly flattering to me. Still, curating my loungewear in the museum of my closet has been and remains a genuine source of joy—and isn’t sharing one’s joy at the crux of the holiday season?
1. “Amal Robe” by Loro Piana
This is the actual robe that inspired the exchange above in Portrait. Yes, it is now $13,600. No, I absolutely do not own one of these. I’m not sure I could truly relax in it even if I did (perhaps I could rise to the occasion if pressed). I’d love to see and feel one in person sometime, though, and am including it in my guide as the platonic form of “robe.”
2. “Capability Silk Satin Robe” by Olivia von Halle
I finally scored a version of this robe after scouring consignment sites for years (the pleasurable research continues)—and it’s even more beautiful than I imagined it would be. Mine is in the “Bettina” print—a rich green paisley from the PS19 collection, with elongated navy cuffs and piped in chartreuse velvet—but the current season’s offerings look similarly spectacular. This thing is beyond luxurious. I want to say it’s the green equivalent to Kupka’s robe in “The Yellow Scale,” a picture I will forever and always associate with Joris-Karl Huysmans’ decadent masterpiece, À rebours, as it graces the cover of my college paperback. Basically nothing happens in Huysmans’ novel. Its snobbist hero, Des Esseintes, lives alone and buys, like, gilded tortoises and shit—which almost sounds reasonable to me when I’m wearing this.
As a sidenote, Olivia von Halle’s pajamas are similarly divine. I chose a pair of them for some of my (most outrageous) author photos:
3. “Chunky Wool Belted Robe” by Lunya
If you like your gentility mixed with rusticity, I recommend this Brobdingnagian robe from Lunya, in which it is impossible to forget you’re wearing an animal. It is so heavy that when worn unbelted, the back begins to sag, and yet there’s a luxurious quality even to its droop. This is the robe I imagine on offer for honored guests at Winterfell, but also at Connor Roy’s New Mexican Ranch—the only robe as suitable on the set of Succession as it would be on Game of Thrones. It’s what I reach for when my son wakes up before 6:30 am and envelope him in as we cuddle on the couch—and then proceed to wear for the entire day, confident that it reads as a chic, oversized cardigan via Zoom.
It’s available now in three colorways on Lunya’s website.
4. “Resort Silk Linen Robe” by Lunya
Another favorite by Lunya, the “Resort Silk Linen Robe” is as light as their “Chunky Wool Belted” one is heavy. The fabric alone is worthy of top-shelf novelistic words on the order of “diaphanous” and “gossamer,” but it’s also thoughtfully designed, with origami sleeves and an unusual, unidirectional button wrap belt. “Robe” is almost a misnomer here; I think this should properly be called a yukata. It makes me feel like I’m at an onsen ryokan, gazing serenely at Mount Fuji or something. I frequently pair it with my favorite Japanese pajamas that I bought at Arishiyama Benkei in Kyoto, but also love it as a swim coverup for back-patio lounging.
While the “Resort Linen Robe” is currently not listed on Lunya’s site, they tend to be seasonal about things, and there’s reason to hope they’ll bring it back in the Spring.
5. “Down Robe” by The Company Store
In my sixth-form year at boarding school, I had an absurdly ostentatious Pepto-Bismol-pink down robe that I bought at Goodwill for twelve dollars and fashioned into somewhat of a signature affectation. I wore it not just in the dorms but around campus as well: to breakfast in the dining hall, to perform my early-morning duties as (yes) the Library Prefect—dolling out various tasks to the underformers with, I imagined, an ironic nonchalance. I held onto the pink robe well into adulthood, curling up in it every so often to watch Little Women (1994) and cry—until it died in a tragic bleach accident. As if sacrificing itself, its enormity spared the rest of our crammed NYC closet. RIP.
When I discovered The Company Store made this grown-up version of my beloved thrift find, I obviously had to have it. And honestly? It’s great. I love the side-tie details and diamond pattern, both of which their new version sadly seems to forsake. Still, like Little Women, this one is ultimately more about comfort than style, and if you love your bed so much you literally want to wear it, I still recommend it unhesitatingly.
6. “Bohemian Royale Kimono” by Spell
I love this rayon printed kimono so much I bought it in two colorways, which feels appropriate given that the primary vibe—culty-meets-Coachella—is a style I tend to associate with second-person-plural novels like The Virgin Suicides and Alison Wisdom’s wonderful 2021 debut We Can Only Save Ourselves. The cloudy blue version pictured has an airy, Taj Lake Palace twist, while the black and gold one feels more evil, in a sexy, Salomé sort of way. It reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley’s gorgeous drawings illustrating Wilde’s play.
While this specific print is no longer available (I myself purchased both second-hand), a similar one is available now on Spell’s website.
7. “Navy Flannel Robe with White Piping” by Petite Plume
One’s first robe should be a classic, which is why I got this darling little guy for my son for Christmas last year. I mean, if the Loeb Classical Library made a robe for children, this would be it. It’s still available both on Petite Plume’s website and at Maisonette—and there are adult versions for both women and men as well if matching is your thing (why not? It’s fun). There are several other nice colorways, too, including red and green.
I’d be remiss in recommending this without the accessory that my son admittedly much prefers to it: the “Kitty Sleep Mask.” But please note that this is precisely in line with his current literary tastes, being partial to “The Tyger,” and having named his stuffed cat Jennyanydots.
Best wishes for a joyful and leisurely holiday season,