The nap dress is the garment of the moment, a descriptor that’s both wide-ranging and extremely specific: a type of ethereal, comfortable dress as well as the literal trademarked name of a style from NYC-based brand Hill House Home (pictured above).
Thanks to most of the world spending close to a year of living and working at home and the resulting casualisation of fashion and getting dressed (hello sweatpants and athleisure), the nap dress has become the epitome of pandemic dressing. Hill House Home launched the style in 2018 as a nightgown/dress hybrid, described by founder Nell Diamond as “comfortable for sleeping, but can also be worn as regular clothes”.
They’re also extremely popular. According to Fast Company, the brand sold $1 million worth of inventory in the first 12 minutes after it dropped its latest collection on February 10; by the end of the day, it had generated more revenue than in all of 2019.
But what makes a nap dress a nap dress? It’s comforting, warm, soft, breathable, slightly whimsical with vintage-inspired details. They’re almost always baggy, although shirring is a popular touch. It’s not a nightgown, but you could wear it to bed if you wanted. You could also wear it to the supermarket.
Last year The New Yorker's Rachel Syme wrote about the allure of the nap dress and the “privilege inherent in dressing for gussied-up oblivion”.
“Essential workers cannot dress for napping. There is little rest for the weary. But, for those who can take a stolen moment of repose, the Nap Dress has a tranquillising allure. It is a clean slate, white noise, a gauzy, brief escape for those who can afford it.”
One could also connect it to New Zealand’s long standing interest in the unstructured tunic dress. The NZ Fashion Museum has an insightful history of the ‘gentle wrap’, equating its popularity with our country’s culture of easy dressing - a garment “providing shelter from the elements and protection from unnecessary scrutiny”.
If you want to support local, rather than shopping offshore, here’s where to find a nap dress - or nap dress-esque - here in New Zealand.
But remember, at the end of the day, a nap dress is open for interpretation: