Even in ordinary non-flu life I have trouble with this sartorial genre. What looks nice out of bed, fast becomes nothing but cold and uncomfortable in it. A bottom draw is packed with failed attempts to get a grip on this problem, the purchase of many useless items prompted by the prospect of trips away from home, including hospital.
Back last century, in the course of an interview with Linda Grant in London, I asked her what she was wearing right then. "A white nightie from John Lewis", she said with a trace of amusement. I pictured it. Enviously. And changed the subject.
Nighties are out of the question for me. Between the sheets they take on a life of their own, creeping relentlessly up my body until, by the small hours, they're entwining themselves ever more tightly around my upper torso while my exposed knees and bum freeze to death.
Pyjamas are only marginally more cooperative. They still twist around each leg but can get no further than my upper thigh. Those made for women are usually too skimpy and too flimsy, and too often come in sickly pastels emblazoned with kittens, hearts and coy slogans. For a while, I thought men's pyjamas might be the answer. But they are merely bigger, which means colder, and provide more fabric to do the fatal entwining.
Over the years it's come down, by default, to a pair of soft thin stretchy trackpants, courtesy of The Underwear Club, and inevitably black, worn with one of two long-sleeved stretchy Gap teeshirts - grey marl and shocking pink - bought in London a decade ago. Not glam, but not totally hide-from-the-courier shameful.
I was determined when we went to Vietnam five years ago to get silk pyjamas. In Hoi An I chose good quality burgundy silk and was measured up by an enthusiastic tailor. The result looks splendid. If you pose on a couch with a long cigarette holder. But is quite unwearable in bed. Because the tailor measured me up and the pyjamas fit. Pyjamas mustn't fit, they must hang. Otherwise they're as restrictive as a strait jacket. Someone said brightly that these would make good lounging pyjamas. But what's the point of lounging pyjamas that you have to change out of to get into bed?
I did better in the Beijing silk market a few year later. I bought ice-blue pyjamas with white piping from the first young woman who accosted me. Nothing like such good quality as the Hoi An ones, but loose enough to move in, and, because the silk is so fine, when it bunches it doesn't dig into all the wrong places. Unfortunately, they're nothing like warm enough, so they've have been relegated - or should that be promoted - to going-away-to-warm-places nightwear. Vanuatu, for instance, in two weeks.
Dressing gowns have been less of a problem, until recently. Back in the mid-80s I made most of my own clothes, and, bound for a chilly academic year in Christchurch, bought a length of top quality wool in a sumptous cherry red. It cost $42 a metre - a fortune back then. I put together a simple full-length traditional dressing gown - slim-fitting with red silk cuffs, shawl lapels* and sash. I wanted not only to be warm; I wanted to be able to open the front door wearing it, without loss of dignity. I loved that dressing-gown; it served me faithfully for 20 years. But in the end, the silk disintegrated and the wool became threadbare. It had to go. Since then, nothing has been the same.
For a year of two there was a white Baksana robe of such industrial sturdiness it was like donning a doormat. A short doormat, since from the first laundering, it exposed my knees and white legs. And, as it only touched my body in one or two places, it didn't help a jot to keep me warm.
This year, in a sad attempt to recreate the past, I bought a red plushy, quasi-candlewicky thing from Sussan. It's cosy and doesn't look too bad. Except that once again it doesn't cover me head to toe, and - something I only realised I needed after I got it home - it doesn't have pockets.
The search for the ultimate dressing-gown continues.
Slippers have never been easy, either - that old conflict between comfort and style. Last year, though, I came across these little beauties at a Molly M sale.
Cute and comfortable. Which is to say, comfortable enough for most days but not, it turns out, for flu days, when I found myself sinking into horrible old Number 1 Shoe Warehouse sheepskin, in which I could slip-slop to the kitchen to squeeze oranges and back to bed again.
Where I live now, there's no temptation to venture beyond the gate in slippers - the car is on the street, down a longish path populated morning and evening with wage slaves and at other hours with dog walkers. It wasn't always so. Back in the dark days of early wife-and-motherhood in the Hutt Valley, my husband and I would load the carrycot into the car several times a week and drive across town to watch tv with friends. It was the nearest we had to a social life. One weary evening I reasoned that, with the car right by the front door of the flat, it just wasn't worth the trouble of changing out of my slippers to drive across town only to put them on again. That was the night the car broke down. I had to get out and push it down the Main Street in full fluffy pink regalia. I learned my lesson.
*Looking to jog my memory on the name of this kind of lapel, I came across helpful instructions for sewing an occult-activity robe, courtesy of the Servants of the Light School of Occult Science. No, I'm not providing the link; use your powers to find it yourself.