I love a slip in theory. It’s silken by definition; it’s designed to fall across the body in a single sheet. The word itself summons the emotional ethos of a nightgown: slip. Slip into bed, slip into something comfortable, slip into the abyss. But I’ve never met one I didn’t hate.
There was the black one I bought at Zara in 2014 that made me think about my boobs every time I wore it. The slinky baby blue one Leandra put me in for a shoot that Benjamin-Buttoned me into an embarrassed 12-year-old. The silvery one I bought from Topshop thinking this time would be different, only to spend the next two years trying it on and taking it off before I left.
Slips were originally conceived as undergarments, which is probably why most of them suck. When I was growing up, they were not worn solo over baby tees or with sneakers, they were folded in the back of my mom’s drawer, taken out alongside her fancy pantyhose and paired with the appropriate party dress. And unfortunately for me, by the time they became fashionable as outerwear, the irony of their impropriety was baked into the appeal.
The problem is, most slips have grabby hands, clinging where I don’t want to be clung, pulling where I want to be free, and generally distracting me with their preciousness. They invite an inner monologue I do not care to have (one in which I count and assess all of my body parts). I may not be one for dresses, but slips are aggressively not pants. Which is why I’m surprised to say I looked long enough to find the perfect one.
I’m not sure why I took it to the dressing room at & Other Stories a few months ago. It was burnt orange (weird) and had an unusual amount of stitching where I might prefer simplicity. But I suspect something in me — definitely not the Daniel Day-Lewis-inclined part — still wanted to figure slips the fuck out. And when I tried it on, I think I finally did. I felt like a damn seal.
A versatile seal, because I immediately thought of five ways to wear it. With a blazer to a wedding. With a fleece and sandals to lunch. With a sweater and flats to dinner. By itself to catch beach balls on my nose and bark. The seaming and cut of the dress allayed the usual clinging; the tea length made me stand a little taller; the material (57% polyester, 43% viscose…sorry, silk) felt substantive and never created static. It was $119. The sweaty summer subway wasn’t looking so bad.
I remain a pants person to my core, but I’m glad I didn’t give up my slip hunt. Because it’s nice to finally have a garment on hand when I want to literally slip into something more comfortable without looking like I’m ready for bed. Plus, I’ve never felt more connected to my 90s-era mother, which is a treat unto itself.
Photos via Haley Nahman.