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A few months ago, I moved to Sweden from California. I packed up my entire life and put nearly half of it into storage. The rest went into a shipping container, which was scheduled to arrive to my new home in Stockholm maybe six weeks later. Eight weeks at the most, they reassured me! It took 12.
Anyone who has ever moved a long distance knows precisely how horrible a delay like this is. There you are, getting acclimated to a new city, possibly also a new time zone, a new continent, a new country, and/or a new language. No matter how exciting the adventure is, there’s a moment when you’re trying to set up your new life and all you want is something that’s familiar and comforting but simultaneously able to transport you out of that very alien and lonely moment.
If you were me, that something would be the perfect bathrobe. And if you were me, you would have put all the perfect bathrobes in the shipping container and instead brought the worst bathrobe with you in your suitcase.
Now, you might not know there’s such a thing as a perfect bathrobe or a wrong bathrobe. Maybe you’ve never even considered owning multiple bathrobes because you believe a person needs only one bathrobe. Maybe you don’t even own a bathrobe at all! But maybe you should reconsider.
Think about the last time you stayed in a nice hotel. At some point, you opened the closet and pulled one of the hotel bathrobes from its hanger. No pedestrian robe, this: The hotel bathrobe is like a magic cloak that transports you from your boring life, in which you have to do things like make your bed and cook your own food, to a delightful, if temporary, existence of leisure and luxury.
Guess what! A bathrobe in your own home can also do exactly that. My bathrobe wardrobe has changed over the years as I’ve learned more about what I’m looking for. It currently goes something like this:
- A cozy, plush winter robe, which is actually a men’s Nautica robe I stole from my dad. It doubles as a comforting hug when I’m sick or have recently found out an ex is getting married.
- A short, lightweight terrycloth summer robe, which I found on sale at Gap Body years ago. It’s practical but also a bit sexy, kind of like basic cotton underwear.
- An inexpensive blue and white cotton kimono-style robe, which was a gift and which I wish had belt loops but is still great for days when I want to throw something on and feel casually chic as I wander about my house. It’s also a good travel robe.
- A vintage silk Japanese-inspired 1920s flapper robe, which I bought because it was beautiful and a little extravagant and wholly unnecessary. When I’m in the mood to play dress-up and transport myself without leaving the house, I like to throw open all the windows, play some King Oliver, and wear this robe while standing at the kitchen counter, eating a late-night steak and drinking wine.
- A classic white terry bathrobe, which I brought with me to Sweden and which it turns out I don’t like very much, because it’s not comfortable enough to be #1, too heavy and warm to be #2 or #3, and certainly too pedestrian to be #4. Fun fact: More than any other one I have, this robe is the closest approximation to the classic hotel bathrobe.
If you want to build out your own robe wardrobe, start with a robe you love, one that makes you feel like the slightly more glamorous or elegant or louche version of yourself. Here are some options:
This robe is screaming to be Instagrammed on a cute porch. This robe is dying to be worn on a Sunday afternoon as you alternate between eating croissants in bed and having sex. This robe just wants you to feel better, honey, so maybe curl up on the sofa. This robe is absolutely divine and I hope someone buys it and swans about, channeling Ava Gardner.
On rare occasion you can — and will — want to buy them from a hotel, like the almost totally perfect robe from the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. It’s essentially a giant hoodie transformed into a bathrobe. I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t crazy about the embroidery on the back, and even though I wore it nearly a year ago, I still think about ordering one almost daily.
If a sexier hoodie is more your style, you can join me in the search for the perfect short silky hooded robe, too. (In the middle of writing this piece I emailed Dear Bowie to find out if the brand would possibly bring that one back, but it’s discontinued, much to my deep dismay.)
The point is that a robe doesn’t have to be a boring thing you put on between showering and dressing. Like any other article of clothing, a robe can be anything you want it to be. In fact, a robe has more potential because it’s not constrained by all the usual issues of “does it actually look good” and “what will people think when I step outside?” A robe is something you wear in the comfort of your own home where no one can see you flipping up the hood, pretending to be a boxer as you defeat the laundry, or talking to yourself like Cary Grant as you set up soft-boiled eggs and toast soldiers. It’s not the hotel that confers these qualities upon a robe. It’s a hotel that allows you to appreciate these qualities because it’s harder to do so at home, in the middle of all your stress and routine.
The robe itself? It can be magical anywhere you want it to be. It’s your gateway to glamour, to leisure, to comfort, to relaxation, to a singular and very personal joy. It’s the hug of my big gray dad robe when I feel homesick, the surprising sauciness of my basic short robe when Swedish weather is feeling flirty, and the slink of a silk robe when summer evenings are giving way to fall. My bathrobes, more than any other garment I own, are both comfort and fantasy, home and away.