By  on April 17, 2006

PARIS — Why not host cocktail hour at home?

That's the proposition of a new breed of loungewear designers who are creating silhouettes elegant enough for entertaining — or sporty enough for a poolside resort romp — yet comfortable enough to slide into bed. Take, for example, a fluid silk slip from French designer Vanessa Bruno or a cableknit "tennis outfit" from New York's Skin.

"For fall, we saw a return to the Thirties in fabrication, style and silhouette," says Ed Bucciarelli, president and chief executive officer of Henri Bendel, citing French brands such as Gentry de Paris and Dior, as well as Leigh Bantivoglio, based in New York, and Trelise Cooper, of Auckland, New Zealand. "Even contemporary brands like Cosabella are channeling Jean Harlow with a stretch silk slipdress trimmed in lace," he adds. "We expect this trend to pick up even more momentum as fall approaches."

Amanda Lepar, buyer for, an online retailer of branded intimates, predicts that glamorous loungewear will take off this fall, due in part, she says, to "ready-to-wear's return to hourglass silhouettes." Lepar says Oscar de la Renta, as well as Madame V, of London, and Julianne, an Australian luxury sleepwear brand, are indicative of the trend. "We're focusing on sophisticated styles with a touch of Hollywood glamour that remain sleep-friendly in terms of fabrics," she adds.

Some attribute the growing success of retro-inspired sleepwear to the popularity of vintage clothing, which has led to the rediscovery of glamorous slips. "Loungewear has returned to being about self-indulging and looking fabulous at all times — you never know who is going to ring that doorbell," says Julianne's designer Nicky Adamo. However, nudging fashionable loungewear looks into a market dominated by traditional sleepwear brands is not quite as easy as shaking up a dry martini. British designer Claire Judge had to edge her retro loungewear brand Aloe, based in London, into a market she said was saturated by "Juicy Couture knockoffs."

"The idea was to go back to the days of glamour," says Judge, whose fall collection features Forties-style wrap tops and bloomers, as well as Biba-inspired silhouettes and her staple hippie-chick Sunrise dress, which has been a hit with Jade Jagger and Yasmin LeBon, the designer notes. "Today, my pieces are doing well as homewear, but they're also selling well in resorts," she adds.Still, department stores found it a challenge to place loungewear brands with hybrid looks, such as Alice & Astrid, of London, an eight-year-old firm that launched its retro take on loungewear four years ago with looks ranging from Victoriana to Seventies styles. A few years down the line — and after Beyoncé Knowles was spotted in the label's baby dolls — designer Astrid Blake said that stores are beginning to rejigger their departments to position loungewear closer to ready-to-wear, thus removing design limitations.

One such store is London's Harvey Nichols, where intimate apparel buyer Charlotte Greenhalgh attributes the "smartening up" of loungewear looks to a return to home entertaining. "Glamorous loungewear is a category that is flourishing in our store," she says. "Women want to feel stylish, even at home during the evening."

And last year, Carolyn Haase, lingerie buyer for Bon Marché in Paris, began shifting her sleepwear buying budget to accommodate the burgeoning loungewear category. "Women are looking for style-conscious loungewear in sensuous fabrics that they can slip into when they get home," she says. "They're looking for elegant pieces that feel like a second skin."

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