Life

Nuala McCann: Nighties are for hospital stays, and you can keep your mumsy smocks

Laura Ashley brings back long, long ago memories when the height of sophistication was the Garron Tower boys' social

This year’s trend for huge tents of high-neck mumsy smocks is not sexy

FASHION magazine spreads on trends like the current ditsy ones inevitably have headings like “Some day my prints will come.”

It’s been a summer of high-end horrible clothes. Flowery smocks were back on the catwalks and willowy young things looked romantic in them. Frump is a bad word but this summer of the Laura Ashley look left me looking like an ould wan that got miraculously pregnant.

Yes, we all channelled our inner Laura back in the day – that “straight off the top of a hay bale, chewing absentmindedly on a bit of straw” come hither look.

Remember those frills right up to the prissy neckline, that sprigged muslin run wild and those ditsy flowers?

I was once that wild summer meadow look and the memories came back like a bad case of heartburn.

Laura Ashley brings back long, long ago memories when the height of sophistication was the Garron Tower boys’ social.

We spent hours preparing ourselves for the wild night ahead. People didn’t have pre-swalls back then; people didn’t even have swalls. They had a cup of tea and a large meringue before the big event.

My best friend – who is still my best friend – and I spent hours preparing ourselves for the occasion helped along by lashings of patchouli and enough electric blue eye shadow to render Adam Ant green with envy.

The boys’ assembly hall was decked out for the annual social with a large net piled high with balloons suspended from the ceiling.

If you were lucky, you might get treated to a mineral. Plus ca change.

The reason I remember is because of a certain flowery number that makes me cringe even now, 40 years later. Been there, done that, channelled my inner Little House on the Prairie.

But I smoked her out of my soul with the first whiff of punk. Farewell Bread and the Guitar man, adieu Richard Clayderman tinkling on his piano. Hello London Calling and the Clash.

It would be fair to say that all this flowery nostalgia makes my heart sink into my button-up boots. But no, as surely as the sun sets on what was a wickedly wet summer, those panelled lace maxi dresses have given way to long chiffon nighties.

The stars are at it. Have you seen Gwyneth Paltrow? There is a photograph of her in a high neck yellow number that belongs to the boudoir.

According to the Guardian, it was a sheer yellow pleated Chloé gown with high neck ruching, but to me it yelled “Hello Lucy!” or “Hiya Doris Day” and for those not of the vintage to recall Lucille Ball or Doris wafting about in their heyday, let’s just say this nightie nonsense is not cool.

The fashionistas are saying nice things about these floatie nighties which stars are wearing to soirees and grand gala events. They whisper romance, relaxed dressing, an ethereal other world. And sure, even in good old Belfast, haven’t we all witnessed the pyjama game?

Nightwear as daywear is nothing new. Remember the mums in pyjamas at the school gates? I watched two girls in fluffy dressing gowns and slippers with rabbits’ ears pick up a loaf of bread in Tesco one morning and thought I was dreaming. Not a bit of it.

The psychologists would make a field day of it – they already have. Somebody has written a thesis on how wearing nightwear as day wear blurs the boundaries between private and public.

And who am I to complain? I once sneaked out of the house in my fluffy dressing gown to drive down and pick someone up from a local hostelry. The roadblock and torch was unexpected – at least I was not asked to step out of the car.

Personally, I do not go out easily in a nightie. This might be because I no longer possess such things.

If one half of the female world is wearing negligees in the street, the other half is wearing jogging bottoms and tee shirts in bed.

In deep winter, add a pair of woolly socks and on icy nights, consider the possibility of a pair of knickers – clean obviously – on one’s head.

Because if we’re all going to get relaxed about how we dress, then this is the way to go.

Nighties are for hospital stays only, when you announce to the rest of the world that you are not a slob.

They are not glam, just as this year’s trend for huge tents of high-neck mumsy smocks is not sexy – please dig a ditch and bury them now.

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