Reader Response and Pajamas, Vol. 16, Issue 3

Dear Etiquetteer:

Thank you for the thorough post on Condolence Correspondence. A question for you: as you stress that timing is of the utmost importance when writing condolences, is sending a card after a funeral appropriate? I recently attended a funeral of a good friend who's father had passed very suddenly. I was able to see her and give my condolences in person, but thought it might be nice to follow up with a handwritten note and a few photos I have of her father-daughter dance at her wedding. It was suggested to me that sending the photos might prolong her sadness when she's trying to get back into the swing of everyday life, but I thought she might appreciate them. What would you advise?

Dear Condoling:

The most Perfectly Proper time to send a Lovely Note of Condolence is as soon as one hears about a death. Often that happens after the funeral. Etiquetteer commends your thoughtfulness at wanting to sending a condolence after greeting your friend personally at her father's funeral. Believe Etiquetteer, it does make a difference to the bereaved.

As to the photos, Etiquetteer would err on the side of sending them, especially if they are photos she is unlikely to have seen before. (Of course Etiquetteer suspects that the Usual Horde of wedding photographers was following that father-daughter dance you mention, but that doesn't mean that each individual image of the event might not be considered meaningful to your friend.)

Recently a couple writers Etiquetteer admires have weighed in on the Perfect Propriety of pajamas. British etiquette expert William Hanson wrote a humorous article about what is and is not appropriate to wear in bed. Etiquetteer is just a tad more lenient than Mr. Hanson about wearing pajamas outside the house. While Mr. Hanson would permit only in the event of one's own medical emergency, Etiquetteer will joyfully permit pajamas al fresco when attending a pajama brunch.

Mr. Hanson reinforces some tenets of Good Taste, for instance that pajamas should be pajamas and not underwear (both for ladies and gentlemen), and that cotton, specifically sea island cotton, is more Perfectly Proper than silk or satin (especially for gentlemen).* The necessity of a Perfectly Proper bathrobe/dressing gown is emphasized, as well as having a good pair of slippers. One can't just pad around barefoot, especially if one is a houseguest. He particularly inveighs against sheepskin. Etiquetteer must confess to being partial to furlane from Pied a Terre in Venice.

Etiquetteer cannot join in Mr. Hanson's condemnation of those who sleep without pajamas altogether, preferring the altogether. After all, as long as your pajamas stay in the bedroom, it's no one's business what you wear - or don't wear - to bed. Still, as Someone Whose Name Etiquetteer Is Ashamed to Be Unable to Recall said, "Etiquette is how you behave when no one is looking."

Then Peter Lappin over at Male Pattern Boldness waxed nostalgic over the bed jackets ladies used to wear. Sixty and 70 years ago there was perhaps no more feminine garment, and this was, of course, designed especially for the boudoir. That was still the era of the Lady of Leisure who slowly began her day with breakfast in bed, telephoning her friends and perhaps chain-smoking with a long holder.

But there were other Bed-Jacketed Ladies who conducted their business in bed. No, Etiquetteer does not mean that sort of business! One thinks of the late Mamie Eisenhower, propped up in her tufted pink bed in a quilted pink bed jacket, breakfast tray on knees and cigarette in hand, briskly conducting her daily meetings with members of the White House staff.** And Lily Daché, the great 20th century milliner, leaves us a hectic picture of her morning in bed in her book Talking Through My Hats: "I suppose it would look strange to someone who did not know me to look in on this penthouse bedroom most any morning and see me sitting up in my bed, with a leopard-skin rug over my knees, a lacy bed jacket over my shoulders and my newest hat creation on my head, dictating to my secretary on one hand, consulting my designers on the other, sorting through piles of straw and lace and feathers and perhaps having a massage." Hardly Ladies of Leisure, they!

In the winter months, when hibernation is so tempting, Etiquetteer knows that you will sleep the sleep of the Perfectly Proper.

*Reading this, Etiquetteer instantly remembered the description of James Hazen Hyde's bedroom in Patricia Beard's excellent book After the Ball. Hyde had a reputation as a Vile Seducer; he nephew took one look at Hyde's black bedroom with its black silk sheets and black silk pajamas laid out for the night and thought "Uncle's working clothes."

**See Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West.