The appeal of a silk dressing gown – at New & Lingwood

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As I wrote earlier this year, I’m usually quite conservative when it comes to gowns. They’re very practical for me, thrown on early in the morning to get up with one of my three daughters. 

They can still be luxurious, and beautifully made. I’m good at looking after good materials, and can cope with the occasional stray soggy Corn Flake. But I’m not a man of luxurious leisure, and gowns that are overly fancy or fussy just don’t fit my life. 

However, I still recognise that a decorative silk dressing gown is a beautiful thing. If you like menswear, you will appreciate a woven-silk necktie; you will also love the scale and flow of a great overcoat; and a dressing gown such as the silk pictured above is a combination - a maximisation - of those two things. You’d be a fool to not be tempted. 

Fortunately, a reader recently asked what kind of silk dressing gown I would recommend. A classic navy spot? A quilted-lapel smoking number? And this gave me the excuse to consider the options vicariously. 

Anyone that spends time walking around Mayfair will have had their eye caught, at some point, by the New & Lingwood gown store at the end of the Piccadilly Arcade. 

There’s such a riot of brightly coloured fabric: black and gold; red and green; during the summer a procession of sugary linens in pale blue, yellow and pink. The only real local competition is from Favourbrook, and even they have quite a few dresses and waistcoats in plain cream or black. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the display makes everyone that walks past reconsider whether they’d wear a silk gown. Or want to consider it. Want to want it. 

I think there’s quite a big difference between some of the options though. 

A black silk gown embroidered with skulls and crossed bones can look a little silly, at least to me. Are you trying to look dangerous and tough? In a silk gown? I know there’s the Eton connection, but more than just Old Etonians are buying them. 

Equally gowns in gold, with quilted facings and tassels. It’s a little too much, too showy. 

There is still a question of taste, in other words. Just as there would be if you were buying patterns and colours for another area of your life, like curtains or soft furnishings.

If you’re going to wear a brightly coloured dressing gown, my advice would be to avoid other aspects of decoration. Steer clear of the quilting and the tassels, focusing simply on colours and patterns that you like - as you would the silk in a necktie. 

I like the peacock-patterned silk above, for example. Although it’s clearly a bold pattern, and makes use of strong colour, the contrast is rather less than the green and gold above, or orange and navy. Compared to those, the pink and turquoise is quite subtle. 

I also like the fact that the piping is low contrast. Its soft gold is similar to the cream used in the body, and both blend with the pink and green rather nicely. 

To me, the bright-white piping on some gowns can make them look cheap, particularly with darker colours. Which is why the piping on the gown I covered earlier this year was so tonal. 

The New & Lingwood gowns are all finely made, of course.

I particularly like the wide, rounded shape of the facings, and the way they roll open all the way down to the hem whenever you leave the gown unbelted. Look at the belly on it in the image below - it’s almost as wide as the chest itself.

Also important is a belt that holds its shape, and doesn’t collapse when tied. Whether achieved by stitching or lining, it makes a big difference to how elegant the gown looks. Nothing makes a dressing gown look old and ratty more than a belt that has become basically a shoe string.

Many of the N&L gowns are also made in the basement of the main shop on the other side of the Arcade - something I’m not sure many people know.

This makes adjustments fairly easy, which is nice. It’s straightforward to do something like take off the fold-back cuffs and shorten the sleeves, for example, before reattaching them. 

Interestingly, N&L only had a medium and an extra-large in the store in this pattern, and I found the latter suited me better. 

A medium was more of a ‘true’ fit, with the end of the shoulder sitting right on the point of my shoulder bone. But I think a gown should be loose -  luxuriously so - and as a result have fullness in the body when you cinch it at the waist. The extra large, pictured here, did that better on me. 

More power to those that wear silk gowns and enjoy them. They are truly wonderful - and now that Vanners has gone, there will be fewer around that are made in the UK. 

From what I understand, the attempted rescue of Vanners - which had been weaving silk since 1740, and which I covered for PS back in 2009 - has now fallen through, leaving Stephen Walters the only mill doing this weaving at any scale. 

Let’s hope there are enough dandies around to keep production going there, at least. 

The silk gown pictured is £1,250. Linen gowns are a good alternative, starting at £595. Bespoke gowns are also possible, from a range of silks and other materials.

The pyjamas pictured are brushed cotton from Anderson & Sheppard. I find grey a good foil for strong colour, in much the same way as a grey flannel suit. The shoes are Sagan Lunes from Baudoin & Lange. 

Photography, Alex Natt @adnatt

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Lindsay McKee

Hi Simon,
Maybe you’re aware of this anyway, but Vanners still have a webpage up of sorts.
Here is the link anyway.
Very very sad when an old firm folds up.
I’m digressing here….I was reading Bernard Rotzell’s “ The Look Book”, and he made frequent references to Tobias Tailors…also sadly gone. However he makes reference to one John Coggin. Is he still tailoring? I met him 30 years ago in London in Tobias Tailors where he explained the importance of the thread loop , I think it’s called a keeper…in a tie he was showing me…and I brought the excellent book “The Savile Row Story” there.
Thanks
Lindsay

Ian F

Tobias Tailors still exists and their Instagram page is well worth a look if you enjoy the craft of tailoring.

Lindsay McKee

Many thanks Ian
Lindsay

Matt S

Tobias Tailors still post regularly on Instagram. Though they don’t have their Savile Row shop any more, they appear to still be tailoring in some capacity.

Lindsay McKee

Many thanks for that.
Lindsay

Dan G

I believe they are the coat makers for Steven Hitchcock, although I could be mistaken

Matt L

I don’t wear dressing gowns, but I think if ever there was something to go bold and brash with it would be this. No-one but your household is ever going to see it.

Perhaps then the pattern should be picked based on what would entertain the kids? In the same logic that fragrance should be what your partner likes to smell.

JL

Hi Simon. Seeing your article reminded me of an odd coincidence that happened to me a few years ago. I was invited to pitch for some work with New & Lingwood and spent a pleasant afternoon in their shop in the Picadilly Arcade. Taking a corporate brochure away with me, I left to attend another meeting. The chap I was meeting noticed the brochure and the photo of the actor, Hugh Lawrie, on the cover wearing a N&L silk dressing gown he had worn in the TV show, The Night Manager. Turned out his sister directed that show! It’s a funny old workd!

Matt S

I think a silk dressing gown is a beautiful thing, and there’s no other place in menswear to wear patterns like that other than jacket linings. I always admire the ones at New & Lingwood when I walk by the shop. But I see this as the ultimate in luxury since it’s something we wear only for ourselves, only with our families in our own homes. A £10,000 bespoke suit is less of a luxury because it’s worn for both ourselves and for the people who see us. Cotton dressing gowns can serve the same purpose as a luxurious silk gown while costing considerably less and often being just as comfortable. While I appreciate the beauty of the silk dressing gown, it seems to be one of the most difficult pieces to justify in my mind.
I’m also saying this as someone who needs more help with staying cool at home than keeping warm. My summers are hot and my winters are over-heated thanks to steam heat. So a dressing gown of cotton shirting would suit my needs better anyway.

Jack Williams

Hi Simon, A great article and somewhat out of the usual. However, I wear my pajamas and a bespoke silk robe mornings as I walk my dog. (A large black lab.) I often meet neighbors walking their dogs or early morning runners. (I do say it is very important to include the pajamas.) So it is important that one always look stylish! I have two robes: the bespoke and quite bold silk one for the warmer days and a heavy wool one for the winter. Of course my slippers must match – low leather with the silk and high thick ones for the winter. More than one’s family does see these outfits!
Cheers
Jack Williams

Georgios

The gown suits you very well Simon and knowing the big-great wardrobe you have i could see it getting much use at home when you relax and maybe think of a next article or a wardrobe piece. It is though very very expensive.
Id like to ask something about a bag i think i start to need the last time. I have read all of your articles about bags and i didnt find what im looking for or something similar. I want something to put my keys, wallet, car key, phone, sunglasses case, and a very small compact camera( ricoh gr d iv) that i dont have to carry with my hands but my body. Maybe a waist bag or a shoulder bag or if you have any other idea i would be happy to hear. I just want it to look classy, be of high quality and not look like some people i see on the streets with sweetpants, gucci/lv bag, trainers and a hoodie.

Gary Mitchell

Something like this? Aviator in tan grain leather – J. Panther Luggage Co. (jplc.com) Never seen one close up but it always looks to be handy thing.
Myself I use a Coach full leather sling bag (minimum branding and does a great job)

Gary Mitchell

Old cartridge bag – Stolen by memsahib
Mulberry Anthony – Stolen by memsahib
Just finished a 4 day motorbike tour in South Africa where the memsahib wore my Coach sling-bag…..I am bracing myself for another theft
Some things you cant win

Russ

Simon, you know as well as I do that the desire for one of these things is a remnant of ‘Sebastian Flyte’ fantasy days at our shared former university. We would just need a morning cheroot and martini cocktail to complete the scene.

But yes, they are gorgeous dressing gowns. One day I shall buy one, and spill scrambled egg and caviar down it.

Thomas

Simon, I know that certain silk garments can be washed delicately by hand. Being reluctant to use dry cleaners could a N&L gown be hand washed ? Thanks

Winot

I took a good look at the New & Lingwood gowns recently but found them a little gaudy for my taste. Went in the end for the Antique Paisley Wool Gown from Emma Willis, which I’ve been very happy with.

Rui Lima

Hello Simon,
Would you say there is a difference in touch between the silk woven and silk printed gowns?

Petronio

I cannot agree more on how annoying is a belt which does not stay flat around the body. I have that problem with a Turnbull & Asser gown made with the same cotton of the shirts. The good point of a cotton gown is that it can be machine washed which is not a minor issue for a home garment.

A Casual Observer

Had no idea N&L had a workroom in their basement, assumed it was all contracted-out – London’s remaining random workshops/ateliers/whatevers would be an interesting article.

Sinclair

Hi Simon, Thanks for an interesting post. Your New & Lingwood silk dressing gown do look lovely. Could you elaborate on your opinion on Budd’s silk dressing gowns in comparison?
And what about Derek Rose?

Sinclair

Thanks Simon, just as I thought. I really liked the lapel shape and also the belt on your N&L. What is your opinion on Budd’s belts in comparison? I was also a bit surprised that you had to size up two sizes to get a loose and comfortable fit. In your experience, are Budd’s Dressing Gowns true to size?