We are all aware of fan clubs for pop stars and sports teams, but for dresses? Never. Yet devotees of the “nap dress” – a sort of elevated nightie/day dress hybrid – have embraced a name that makes them sound like citizens of a new country: Nap Dress Nation.
The nap dress, to be clear, is a nightgown-ish dress designed for actual daytime wear. Most come with frills, flourishes and faded floral prints inspired by retro nightgowns, plus smocking (for comfort), and fabric opacity (consider it day-proofing).
“I was looking for something comfortable that could carry me through a long day, but that I still felt like myself in,” says Nell Diamond, the 34-year-old Yale MBA who created them.
The Manhattan mother of three is founder and chief executive of Hill House Home, the US-based linen brand that introduced the nap dress. Diamond, who describes her personal aesthetic as “Victorian ghost”, trademarked the term (“in hindsight, very optimistic”) and launched the first dress in 2019.
Hill House boasts 223k followers on Instagram, and some 600,000 of their favourite dresses sold this year in the States. And its success means it’s coming here too.
Diamond herself is the closest thing Nap Dress Nation has to a prime minister (or queen). And the Ellie, a smocked midi-dress with shoulder frills, is its de facto uniform. “I’m wearing one now,” Diamond says, standing to offer a closer view of the blue-green floral print on her dress.
So devoted are Nap Dress Nation members they’re also the first to spot them in the wild. “Nap Dress Nation finds these things before we do,” says Diamond, describing the frenzy of messages she received when Princess Beatrice wore a navy-and-gold version to a book prize in London earlier this month. “That was an original, from one of our first collections. It made me so happy to see.”
The nap-dress formula – fancy-seeming dresses that still feel casual – has made it a staple of hen parties and baby showers, summer holidays and wedding brunches in the United States, where it’s worn by regular women who buy it in multiples and celebrities alike (Emma Roberts, Mindy Kaling and Anya Taylor-Joy included).
Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie (who wore a tartan incarnation home from the hospital after delivering her first baby August in 2021) would have had to order theirs from the US or pick them up on transatlantic shopping trips. This week, however, Nap Dress Nation is going global.
Hill House has opened its first international warehouse and a UK ecommerce website. From today women in the UK will be able to buy a nap dress from the brand that invented it, without the logistical headaches of international shipping.
Expansion is a no-brainer when it comes to meeting demand. Since the beginning, Diamond has received messages from people “begging us” to open UK distribution so they wouldn’t have to pay steep import fees. Members of the fan group range in age from 20 to 60, and Diamond says there is no single customer.
But bringing Hill House to the UK is more than a business decision for Diamond; it’s personal. “This has been a dream since I started Hill House in 2016.” Born to American parents in London (her father is former Barclays boss Bob Diamond), Diamond lived here until she was 18. “It’s truly home for me, even though I don’t sound like it at all,” she says in a neutral American accent. “All of my cultural references are British. My love of fashion and design was born in London.”
The brand she based her affection for English interiors and style on is big business in the US. When the summer 2022 collection launched, Hill House sold $1 million (£800,000) worth of products in three minutes.
Model wears: Juliana Dress, White Eyelet Cotton, £165; Ellie Nap Dress, Cherry Stripe Cotton, £145
There’s more choice than ever. Nap dresses give women permission to wear nightgown-adjacent dresses whenever they like – a trend set to continue in 2023. British nightwear brand If Only If’s Camilla and Rose styles in crisp white cotton are ideal for summer lounging. The lace sleeves on the Camelia and Pansy styles from Faune, another British brand with nightwear roots, are too dreamy not to wear during the day. Sleeper, the Ukrainian brand whose nap-compatibility is written into its name, has the lantern-sleeve Bella. Albaray, Ganni, Doen and Kitri all offer styles with smocking for ease of wear. (If your ears are jealous, there’s even a nap earring: Maison Miru’s line of flat-back earrings are comfortable enough to sleep in.)
Still, the Ellie remains the most archetypal ND and is available in 24 different prints and fabrications, including a bridal version in white tulle with blue ribbon straps, and a new blue hydrangea print – part of a collaboration with Alice Naylor-Leyland, AKA aristocratic tablescaper extraordinaire Mrs Alice.
The nap dress’s pretty, “cottagecore” aesthetic isn’t for everyone. Which is why Hill House made its summer 2023 collection its biggest yet, with over 50 pieces, only 19 of which are nap dresses. Amid the flounces and florals, there are slinky black jersey dresses, eyelet co-ord sets and semi-sheer knits, in sizes XXS to XXL. Prices start from $150 (£120).
“I’m so proud of the range,” Diamond says. “There’s no one Hill House girl.”
Except, of course, Diamond herself. She’ll be in London on launch day. Wherever she appears, expect the Nap Dress Nation to turn up in force – as much to see their leader as to shop. “I love the community that we’ve built,” she says. “It brings me so much joy.”