Wednesday, October 27News That Matters

Nap dresses are all the rage: Here’s what to know and which to buy

(CNN) —  

Easy, breezy and totally comfortable. The Nap Dress, trademarked by lifestyle brand Hill House, is just one of the latest iterations of house dresses. And while house dresses have been around for decades and potentially even centuries (the style is said to have originated from a Victorian gown), the romantic garment is experiencing quite the renaissance.

Nap dresses are “loose-fitting, flowy and feminine” says Amanda Sanders, a lifestyle expert and stylist to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Rock and Jennifer Coolidge. Oftentimes the only fitted part of the dress is around the bust, and other key features include “heavy smocking, over-exaggerated puff sleeves and a typically long, slightly pleated skirt.” While nap dresses may be comfortable enough to sleep in, their purpose goes far beyond that of a nightgown. The brilliance of the nap dress and similar house dresses are that they’re generally dressy enough to wear to the office, comfortable enough for running errands and romantic enough for a weekend date.

Sanders notes that you’re likely to see nap dresses even more as we head into warmer weather and as we emerge from quarantine with the idea that perhaps we don’t have to sacrifice comfort to look good. Ahead, we’ve rounded up a range of top-rated or tried-and-true nap dresses (as well as other super-comfy dresses) that check all our boxes when it comes to comfort, versatility and of course — style.

Hill House The Ellie Nap Dress ($125; hillhousehome.com)

Hill House The Ellie Nap Dress
PHOTO: Hill House
Hill House The Ellie Nap Dress

Let’s begin with The Ellie Nap Dress by Hill House, the brand that started the trend. Available in nine colors and up to size 2X, this dress seriously couldn’t get more perfect. An A-line variant of the brand’s Nap Dress, this features elasticated smocking, ruffled shoulders and a tiered midi skirt that will feel comfortable to lounge around in, yet sophisticated enough to pair with heels and head to dinner.

One reviewer writes, “Magical, beautiful, top-notch quality, real French seams, stunning patterns and looks phenomenal and flattering on. There is no end to compliments on this nap dress.”

Free People Oasis Midi Dress ($118; freepeople.com)

Free People Oasis Midi Dress
PHOTO: Free People
Free People Oasis Midi Dress

Free People is one of the brands Sanders immediately associates with the nap dress style, and for good reason. The boho-style brand creates tons of dresses that are breezy, loose and absolutely adorable, and the Oasis Midi Dress is no exception. This cotton option has the classic smocked bodice along with the puffy sleeves, while the square neckline really gives off that popular cottagecore aesthetic.

Writes one reviewer, “Got this dress while I was pregnant as I wanted clothing that I could wear post-pregnancy. This is literally one of the most comfortable dresses I own — the sleeves are not too billowy, the length on my 5’2” petite frame is not overwhelming and the neckline is perfection!”

Wilfred Rengo Dress ($168; artizia.com)

Wilfred Rengo Dress
PHOTO: Aritzia
Wilfred Rengo Dress

If you love a little volume in your dress but prefer a neutral color, this top-rated option from Aritzia delivers on exactly that. With a dramatic, tiered skirt and only slightly puffy sleeves, this is the perfect dress to throw on for any range of activities. No zippers, laces, or fuss. Made from 100% cotton and available in both black and white, we’d imagine this is one dress you could definitely have in both colors and not get sick of.

One reviewer writes, “I love this dress, light enough for summer but a nice medium-thick cotton fabric. You could dress it down for a casual picnic or dress it up for the evening!”

Sleeper Atlanta Linen Dress ($320; sleeper.com)

Sleeper Atlanta Linen Dress
PHOTO: Sleeper
Sleeper Atlanta Linen Dress

Hoping to avoid looking like you’re wearing nightgown? Sanders says that many nap dresses can be “underwhelming in color and pattern,” and that she would suggest opting for brighter colors. This orange option from Sleeper, made from super-soft linen, is eye-catching yet classic and perfect for strutting around in all summer.

While it’s definitely on the pricier side, all of Sleeper’s products are absurdly high-quality and super versatile — this particular dress being one of the brand’s bestsellers. Lounging around the house? A beach weekend? Weekend brunch or a date at the park? Check, check, check.

H&M Smock-Detail Dress ($24.99; hm.com)

H&M Smock-Detail Dress
PHOTO: H&M
H&M Smock-Detail Dress

Another bright yet classic color option, this top-rated lilac dress comes in the perfect spring shade. The long sleeves offset the shorter length of the dress, and the ruffles take the simple structure of the dress to a wonderfully romantic place.

Free People Mockingbird Maxi Dress ($148; freepeople.com)

Free People Mockingbird Maxi Dress
PHOTO: Free People
Free People Mockingbird Maxi Dress

“If I were to style somebody in a nap dress, I’d look for something in white eyelet,” says Sanders. This option from Free People mixes eyelet lace and cotton tiers for that cottagecore drama, while the V-neck silhouette helps to elongate even the most petite ladies.

One reviewer writes that this dress is “the perfect fit, hits at all the right places, and… not too long as I’m only 5’2”.” The exposed back and pleating throughout makes it a bit of a dressier option, and reviewers say they’ve worn this dress at all sorts of events from weddings to day trips.

A New Day Women’s Sleeveless Smocked Waist Dress ($27.99; target.com)

A New Day Women's Sleeveless Smocked Waist Dress
PHOTO: Target
A New Day Women’s Sleeveless Smocked Waist Dress

With smocking along the waist and sizes up to a 2XL, this is one of those nap dresses that seem too easy to pass up. There’s a variety of colors and patterns to choose from, and it’s absolutely stylish enough to wear outdoors and even paired with a belt.

Reviewers adore it, with one writing, “This maxi dress is so perfect! I love that it cinches in at the waistline. It really lays nice on the body. There are also pockets and who does not love those?!? It is very lightweight so it is perfect for spring and summer! Great for a resort or a dinner date.”

Ivy City Co Tea Party Dress ($158; ivycityco.com)

ivy City Co Tea Party Dress
PHOTO: ivy City Co
ivy City Co Tea Party Dress

If you could bundle romance into a dress, it’d probably look something like this option from Ivy City Co, a woman-owned business based out of Utah. We were initially worried about the volume and length for petite women, but that all melted away for one of our petite reviewers when she tried it on. The dress fit like a glove, almost as if it were made just for her. Lots of Ivy City Co. dresses (including this one) are available in mini and baby versions, so you can actually buy the little one in your life a matching dress, plus the size range goes from XXS to 3XL.

Everlane The Japanese GoWeave Slip Dress ($98; everlane.com)

Everlane The Japanese GoWeave Slip Dress
PHOTO: Everlane
Everlane The Japanese GoWeave Slip Dress

Slip dresses are like the modern, minimalist sister to the nap dress. While they receive full marks on comfort and versatility, they pass on all the frills and ruffles that many nap dresses have. This makes them the perfect layering tool, and ideal for anyone who values practicality in their clothing. This top-rated slip dress from Everlane is made from a crease-resistant (yes!) and cooling (double yes!) fabric that’s incredibly soft.

R.Vivimos Floral Print Retro Bohemian Midi Dress (starting at $24.99; amazon.com)

R.Vivimos Floral Print Retro Bohemian Midi Dress
PHOTO: Amazon
R.Vivimos Floral Print Retro Bohemian Midi Dress

Back in 2019, we raved about Amazon’s nightgown dress. The dress has a super relaxed boho shape and a deep V-neck cut with tassels, all of which are reminiscent of some Free People designs — just at a fraction of the price. So if you’re looking for something that will give you total freedom of movement, that you might get wet at the beach or pool, and that you won’t be wearing to any fancy events, this might just be the nap dress for you.

Free People Embroidered Fable Midi Dress ($168; freepeople.com)

Free People Embroidered Fable Midi Dress
PHOTO: Free People
Free People Embroidered Fable Midi Dress

Sanders suggests larger patterns, as opposed to small floral prints, when it comes to looking more fashion and less like you’re wearing a nightgown you’d actually sleep in. This embroidered dress is one take on that bolder pattern, which reviewers say garner tons of compliments.

One of them writes, “I’m really mad at myself for wasting time on other dresses when I could have been buying this dress in multiple colors the last few years. It had been on my radar but I never took the plunge.”

View from the Meadow Off-The-Shoulder Dress ($66; lulus.com)

View from the Meadow Off-The-Shoulder Dress
PHOTO: Lulus
View from the Meadow Off-The-Shoulder Dress

This option from Lulu’s, one of our favorite places to shop for affordable yet high-quality dresses, features the nap dress’s signature smocked bodice and flowy skirt, but swaps big sleeves for short off-the-shoulder ones. With thigh-high slits, the whole dress is sleek, and just a little sexier than your typical nap dress.

Free People Violet Mini Dress ($108; freepeople.com)

Free People Violet Mini Dress
PHOTO: Free People
Free People Violet Mini Dress

Sanders explains that many maxi-length nap dresses can be “overwhelming to most women who are under 5’7”.” Short nap dresses feature everything we love about their maxi-length counterparts, but are friendlier to petites. This option from Free People comes in seven stunning colors, and features a cute tie in the back so you don’t have to fret about buttons or zippers.

Madewell Poplin Crewneck Bubble-Sleeve Mini Dress ($110; madewell.com)

Madewell Poplin Crewneck Bubble-Sleeve Mini Dress
PHOTO: Madewell
Madewell Poplin Crewneck Bubble-Sleeve Mini Dress

This dress is the definition of versatile. The poplin material is just as lightweight and comfortable as traditional cotton, but a bit more structured — making it easy to dress up with accessories and nice shoes. The elastic-waist is still extremely comfortable, and the best part is that it has two, totally functional pockets.

Madewell Linen-Blend Alexandra Button-Front Mini Dress ($88; madewell.com)

Madewell Linen-Blend Alexandra Button-Front Mini Dress
PHOTO: Madewell
Madewell Linen-Blend Alexandra Button-Front Mini Dress

If you’re into the shape and ease of nap dresses, but could pass on the ruffles and drama, a babydoll dress is a perfect balance between feminine and relaxed. This option from Madewell is made from a blend of linen and cotton, which makes it ideal for warmer weather. The button-front and hem around the middle is super cute, while still giving off that effortlessly chic vibe. Plus, and this is always a huge plus, the dress includes two deep pockets, so you can kiss having to carry a purse goodbye.