One of the favorite movies in our house, at least with the women, is The Virgin Suicides. It is sweet, moody, sad, poignant… and there aren't so many movies that feature five sisters. It was an easier story to read than to see (I love all of Jeffrey Eugenides' books) but we all kind of give a pass to the true despair in the plot because it is so brilliantly art directed and amazing to look at. The movie is set in a Midwest suburb in the 1970s and the girls are in high school – exactly the time and place of my own adolescence. Nostalgia to the max. The rooms had the same pastel shag carpet and white painted bedroom sets that I grew up with… the neighborhood trees were sick with the mysterious Dutch Elm disease that I remember my parents talking about … even their homemade Gunne Sax-style floral prom dresses look like something I made. It is like looking at my memories with a super romantic filter applied to them. Pretty dreamy.
I watch the sisters lolling about in their rooms, bored, legs tangled over one another, chatting, playing with one another's hair… and I think of my own girls, particularly the first years we spent in Atlanta. We moved here in 2007, when they were ages 6-17. It was July, and they were pretty much marooned in the house… only one of them was driving, but even if there had been a car, where would they have gone, anyway? All they had was each other.
Entrepreneurship is a 24/7 thing, especially in the beginning. Sid and I would take off each morning in a total whirlwind, trying to build out his store. Contractors, paper suppliers, Scott's Antique Market, IKEA, consignment shops, all in an effort to fill in the empty space and turn it into something that made people understand our vision. Cinematic thinking! We didn't have Sofia Coppola to direct it for us, so we had to do it ourselves. It was really fun. I can remember walking through a nearly-empty IKEA on a weekday morning and hearing the intercom — Sid was trying to find me, and had gotten one of the employees to page me by my maiden name. "Ann Daggett, please report to the customer service desk." I nearly fell over laughing. It was a happy, funny time.
While we were off doing that, the girls were busy making their own little family within a family. In the absence of other friends, they, too, like the Lisbon sisters, spent a lot of time lounging around the house, painting one another's nails, braiding one another's hair, baking cakes, and playing Mario Kart. We called it Little House in Atlanta, because they might as well have been on the prairie. Just the five of them with only each other and the days to fill. In later years, when Sid and I would travel to Europe and leave them at home, our business partner would call them the Boxcar Children in the same spirit. Five girls taking care of each other and figuring it out. Did I abandon them? Or, more optimistically, did I give them an "experience"? Outward Bound.. but more like Inward Bound??
But back to the art direction, and what you really might need. In reality, those early summers here were filled with running shorts and tank tops and the communal bikinis that they all traded back and forth. (And the even less-romantic dirty feet, popsicle sticks, empty Diet Coke cans, bug bites…) But if I could have, I would have styled the whole thing with cotton nightgowns. It is such a pleasure to be freshly bathed, in clean pajamas, book propped in front of you, and tucked in for bed on the early side. And if you have young children, even greater pleasure in tucking them in, clean and contained in their beds. All the hassles of the day can be left behind if they would just please God stay in their beds. By the time of Little House in Atlanta, there was only one to tuck in, more often than not in oversized T-shirts and hand-me-down Soffe shorts. Our Lucy Nightdress came about fourteen years too late for this, but that is exactly what I would have put them in. To wear to bed, but even around the house in the mornings. (Who cares about the sheerness… "we're all girls here"…) I feel that same sense of pleasure when I picture all five of them in these, drifting throughout the house in my revisionist memory. Even with the sloppiness of not getting "dressed" until noon, a nightgown is just prettier than a t-shirt. Period. You just feel better.
And that is the reason I wear a nightgown in the first place. I want to feel pretty when I go to bed. Comfortable, too, of course, but that is actually secondary. The slinky knits and t-shirt nightgowns are wonderful for some, but not my thing. No modal or jersey sheets for me. This one is my ideal. The thin cotton lawn of the solid colors is great if you are a hot sleeper… the striped and Liberty versions have just a bit more weight to them. They are also not as sheer, should you want to run to the mailbox in one. I love that there is no lace or extra trim on it – just a simple feminine ruffle at the neck, and of course, pockets. We add those to every piece of clothing possible because you just never know. Chapstick… a hairband… a breath mint.
This has been a big year for the Nap Dress and sleepwear-as-daywear. I love all that, but this is different. It is primarily meant for bed and indoors. But when I put one of these on, it reminds me of the feeling of getting to play outside in my pajamas before bed as a kid in the summer, when it stayed lighter for longer. These days, I would prefer a glass of wine in my hand over a popsicle. But it sounds kind of heavenly.
I will tell one last story about the girls and nightgowns that makes me unbelievably happy. I have reached the age where they tease me about taking care of me someday when I get older… I mean, really older. We will see how that plays out, but they literally kind of fight about who will get to do it. They have this vision of me in their homes, propped up in a bed with tray of tea like Claire Foy in the Crown. They will put me on pretty sheets and make sure I am bathed and brushed and beautiful. Many of us are all too aware that aging is often not the way we envision it… usually not so cinematic, despite the art direction going on in my head. I saw this with both of my parents, and it is not exactly something I look forward to. But to hear my daughters squabble about who gets the caretaker role, and to feel their love like this, makes me slightly less fearful of getting there. For now, I have the nightdress at the ready. Maybe Sid and I can just hang out in the front yard before bed.