Textiles & Costume

Karen’s Gift: the butter yellow 1930s/40s negligee

Over a year ago I received an email out of the blue from a blog reader who had a small collection of 20s & 30s clothes that she thought I might like.

Would I ever!  That lovely lady was Karen, and the day her box arrived was like all my birthdays coming at once (only without any additional wrinkles or grey hairs): silks and velvets and beading and lace.

The contents were a treasure trove of amazing pieces, in all my favourite colours and techniques.  I photographed them right away, and have been meaning to share them with you ever since, but I’ve just been continually too busy this year.

I finally got all the photos sorted for one of my favourite items (who am I kidding, they are ALL my favourite items!) and was going to show it to you to coincide with the HSF Yellow challenge, and then internet in Vanuatu was too expensive to upload them.

So, a little late, but no less deliciously gorgeous, I present this 1930s/40s silk negligee  in butter yellow.

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


(is negligee the right thing to call it?  I mean, you can’t quite call something like this a nightgown, but I always think of a negligee as opening up the front)

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com

The really interesting thing about this is that it is entirely hand-sewn, but it’s not homemade.  It bears the label of ‘Leron / Fifth Ave. New York’

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


This (along with the silk)  indicates that it would have been an extremely expensive and luxurious item in its time – practically couture (and true couture  is still hugely handsewn).  Once sewing machines became common, handsewing became a status symbol.  L.M. Montgomery stories have a number of mentions of baby clothes or wedding trousseaus with ‘every stitch by hand.’

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


The stitching is beautifully done – fine, even and perfect.  From the tiny piped bands that control the gathers of the bodice…

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com

…And the perfectly even binding and minute gathers…

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com

…To the pinstitching attaching the chiffon bodice to the skirt…

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


And finally, to the the tiny rolled hem…


Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


…The sewing is clearly the work of a  consummate needlewoman.

I suspect that the negligee may very well have belonged to a bride.  There is something about the colours and cut that is very youthful and innocent.  Other than her honeymoon or in a Disney fairytale where she’s bouncing out of bed to throw open the shutters and sing while birds perch on her outstretched hands, I can’t imagine when a girl would wear this!

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


Today you could easily wear this as an evening dress, or even a wedding dress, and with a slip  underneath, few people would realise that it was originally little more than a slip itself!

Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


And so turns fashion!


Leron Fifth Avenue 1930s negligee thedreamstress.com


Thank you a million times to Karen for giving me this amazing piece to study and share.  It brings me a little happiness and sunshine every time I think of it: the lovely yellow, and that long ago seamstress, making her living with perfect stitches.

If you want to see a few more pieces of vintage beautifulness in my collection, check out my posts on Elise’s gift,  Theresa’s 1915 dress, and Lynne’s quilted petticoat.



  1. Deanna says

    Beautiful hand-sewing and lovely fabric! Just to see garments of that quality is exciting, to actually own it (and thus be able to pet it whenever you like) must be awesome. I can’t wait to see the rest of the collection.

    And I just have to say, I always enjoy your posts, you have a lovely way of writing and giving a vivid sense of place and atmosphere especially in your travel or home related posts. Between the L.M. Montgomery reference (her books are close to my heart) and some very funny observations, I really enjoyed this one.

    • Yes! Exciting is a great word to describe the feeling of seeing marvelous craftsmanship. (Craftswomanship)

  2. It’s a nightgown. It may very well have once had a matching negligee. And possibly little satin slippers.

    What an absolutely gorgeous thing! Bless you for all those close-up shots of the stitching – just the bits I would have wanted to see if I had it in my hands. The pin stitching attaching the chiffon to the silk! Swoon.

    Enough to make a woman put her hair into big curly rolls and invite Humphrey Bogart to coctails…

    • I know that technically it is a nightgown, but it seems such a travesty to call it that! And you couldn’t really sleep in it…

      I always wish that museums would include lots more interior shots and close ups! So of course I have to!

      You can have Humphrey and cocktails: I’m having the big dance number with Gene Kelly! 😉

  3. Wonderful! Both the nightgown itself and the way that it is made. (I would love to get boxes like that on my doorstep as well…!)

    • It is pretty amazing! So many people have generously helped to build my collection, and brought me (and hopefully, through me, you) so much joy. And the way this gown is made! Swoon….

      • That’s the whole idea: you are very generous in the way you share with others that it is a pleasure to help you by providing items for sharing!

  4. Exquisite. I consider it couture also. Just this past week, I had the opportunity to purchase some handsewn satin slips and nightgowns. French seams. One also has a label from New York. Your photos are great. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Karen says

    Oh, I’m how wonderful to see this! I have loved that nightgown for probably 25 years. I found it in a thrift store in Florida (of all places) for no more than $20. I’m so glad to read your thoughts on it and so happy that it has found the perfect home.

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