Why I prefer frumpy nighties over sexy ones every time. . .
Bedtime is no time to be exercising your vanity, writes Bryony Gordon
I don't mean to pry, given that we barely know each other, but what do you wear to bed? In the interests of honesty, I'll go first.
I'd like to be able to repeat the immortal words of Marilyn Monroe and answer, "Chanel No 5, of course", but I don't like Chanel No 5 and, anyway, who wears perfume to bed? It would be like nodding off in your makeup.
I suppose, then, that I should confess to a penchant for red silk negligees and nightgowns à la Nigella Lawson, but that too would be complete poppycock. I'd only spill toothpaste down it.
The truth is that I am more Cherie Blair on the doorstep the morning after Britain's 1997 election. I almost always opt for a pair of greying knickers, an old T-shirt, some socks I got on a transatlantic flight and, if I am feeling particularly adventurous, a hot-water bottle (there is nothing -- nothing -- more comforting than the feeling of one on your tummy on a cold winter's night).
But my choice of bedwear has long given me sleepless nights. Why can I not master the art of "dressing" for bed?
Why can't I get a handle on camisoles and kimonos, not to mention negligees and babydoll nighties? The very mention of these makes me shudder, putting me in mind of 70s soft-porn films (or what I imagine them to be like).
I have tried, but whenever I have slipped into something more (un)comfortable, I have woken in the middle of the night with a spaghetti strap threatening to strangle me. I even bought a chaise longue that I imagined I could lie across seductively in silky garments, while reading Lady Chatterley's Lover. But that has never happened, and the most action that that piece of furniture sees is as a makeshift "floordrobe".
Which leads me to wonder: is my failure to embrace saucy nightwear the reason that I sleep alone? So I was heartened to see pictures of the glamorous Cheryl Cole in a frumpy pink M&S robe and the kind of slippers that go best with a flat cap and pipe. Dannii Minogue, her fellow X Factor judge, was also snapped in just such a get-up days earlier. If only the pair took to the stage in their pyjamas and slippers, they'd have the female vote sewn up.
Why is it that women are expected to look like MGM stars of a golden Hollywood age when they get into bed? Why are men not expected to slip under the covers, pectoral muscles oiled, silk boxer shorts hanging deliciously from their hips? It's because we'd think them ridiculous -- the idea that we should look sexy while we are asleep being an utterly preposterous one.
"I have an inherent distrust of women with wardrobes full of silky, sexy nightwear," says one woman.
"I imagine they are the kind of people who set their alarms half an hour before their partners' so that they are never seen without full hair and make-up."
"If you can't relax in bed, where can you?" asks a friend. "I have 12 pairs of Primark pyjamas and I love them almost as much as my family."
Another says that she has stockings and suspenders "for special moments with my husband -- anniversaries, that sort of thing.
"But if I wore a lacy camisole to bed every night I reckon he'd be petrified that I'd turned into some crazy nymphomaniac. Most men like the idea of it, but in reality they have to get up for work in the morning."
That's presuming one gets dressed for men. Having spoken to several, I wouldn't bother getting into a slip for a boyfriend. "Frankly, when a woman reveals a silky babydoll creation and a thong, I am utterly intimidated," says Ed. "Give me a girl in a comfy nightshirt and dressing gown any day."
Sam puts it even more succinctly: "I don't see the point in making all that effort when I'm going to tear it off in seconds."