If you know me, you know that I
like love naps and I like dresses. So, when the term “nap dress” was being thrown around Twitter, I was intrigued. When I saw the dress in question though, my first reaction was, “Ah, es una bata”.
However, while quarantine has changed drastically our reasons for getting dressed at home — to the point that we’re blurring the lines between nightgowns, day dresses, and batas — I want to add my two cents to this nap dress discourse. Here it goes:
A nap dress, a nightgown, and a bata enter a virtual bar: If we were to place the aforementioned in a Venn diagram, of course, they would cross paths when it comes to comfort, but what about the rest?
Before Nell Diamond, the C.E.O. of Hill House Home trademarked the “Nap Dress”, Diamond told The New Yorker, she referred to the whole aesthetic as “Victorian ghost”. She also shared that her vision board, for her now viral dress, was filled with paintings like John William Waterhouse’s “Lady of Shalott” (1888), Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Lady Lilith” (1867), John Everett Millais’s “Ophelia” (1851). And while these works of art show (white) women in states as relaxation and repose, I can’t help but relate la bata more to what Véronique Hyland penned over at Elle. “The nightgown-as-daywear presents a different fantasy: that of being beholden to no one and simply drifting away from the world and all its messy responsibilities.”
While nap dresses from Hill House Home, Doen, or Sleeper, sell us a summer trend and add another layer to your self-care routine far away from sweat and daily duties, for me, batas tell a whole different story.
My bata vision board would consist of my abuela María sporting her short sleeve baby blue bata and her Crocs with droplets of sweat on her sideburns teaching me for the 813,079th time how to properly use a tortilla press while we’re making her version of Tex-Mex puffy tacos; or when she wore her floral sleeveless bata with curlers while we sat in her porch peeling plátanos for our pasteles. It would be my abuela Vicenta wearing her discolored bata while making sure her grown ass sons still had something to eat while her legs looked like two giant hams because her varicose veins were killing her; or when she wore her cotton bata while prepping her last signature Velorio de Reyes and told me to take note about everything so I could write how we [Puerto Ricans] celebrated Christmas.
They didn’t have the privilege to stop and take a break. They were birthing babies, taking care of their family and adopted family, worrying for others before worrying about themselves. In a way, their batas were one of the few sources of self-care: To feel comfortable while they carried the world on their shoulders.
However, the biggest difference of them all is that contrary to the nap dress, you will never catch your abuela with her bata out and about. Batas are to be worn solely for indoors. You would never catch them with their “trapos” (as my grandmas call them) in the outside world. Just the thought about “el que dirán” of the people of our town was reason enough pa’ emperifollarse.
Now, wearing your version of the bata, nap dress, nightgown, oversized tee, or day dress outside your home can also meet in the center of the Venn diagram when it comes to subverting what was socially expected from our abuelas and turning it on its head.
I’ve worn my take of batas to music festivals and to work, and during this new work from home phase, too. In neither of these occasions I do half of what my abuelas did (and still do) but I’ve hustled in my own way in spaces my grandmas could only dream about.
My dresses might not have kitschy floral prints or coffee stains (yet), but when I wear them my vision board pops up in my head and I can’t help but smile.
Now, if you’re considering investing in new nap attire, whether to carry the legacy of your abuelas or to jump off a trend bandwagon, we’ve rounded up a few batas they will surely love.
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