An expensive habit

Think finding a dressing gown is easy? Think again.

How difficult can it be to buy a man a dressing gown in which to keep warm of a winter morning? I had envisaged something finely spun, perhaps in merino wool, maybe gently and extravagantly mixed with cashmere. Not a bulky dressing gown - definitely not towelling, for instance, which is useful after a bath but has no place otherwise in a man's boudoir.

It might not have been the most exciting present, but I thought my boyfriend (how inadequate that word is for a man with whom I've been for ten years and who is the father of my child) might appreciate not shivering in his pyjamas. And if I picked it right, it could look stylish, too: the sort of dressing gown Cary Grant might have worn. Except that the only dressing gown in which I had ever seen Grant was a marabou-trimmed one in the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby, a film in which Grant memorably uttered the word "gay" meaning homosexual - the first time an actor had ever done so on film.

People imagine Cary Grant wore a silk lounging robe. And perhaps he did. So I considered silk. But while it sounds great and I know silk is supposed to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, on the hanger silk dressing gowns, even with the help of a vertical self-stripe, did not look stylish or warm enough.

Back to searching London and the internet for a dressing gown. Bonsoir had some in cotton. John Lewis had nothing that wasn't waffle cotton or towelling. Liberty had some that weren't right, ditto Selfridges. Derek Rose had some in silk and one in cashmere, but the latter gave you a penny change from £2,000 (yes, that is two thousand pounds) and was in a camel colour that I thought was all wrong. Anyway, I thought I'd rather just cover my boyfriend with £2,000 worth of fivers to keep him warm - paper is a great insulator. At least I could get them back when he was done and buy something else, like a car.

In short, men were grossly under-represented in the fine wool robe department. In the end, and at the door of desperation, I emailed my friend Charlie Porter, associate editor of GQ. "Surely, Charlie," I said, "someone must do a dressing gown that would keep a man warm but also look good?" He listed all the places I'd tried, plus one that I hadn't, but which did cashmere-only robes that were eye-wateringly expensive. He also mentioned Derek Rose again. I went back to the site to look at the £2,000 minus a penny dressing gown, and the silk ones.

Wait! There was one in navy for £250 that said "merino wool". I clicked on the picture. The belt had a tassel. It was perfect, wonderfully stylish and expensive enough to make it a truly luxurious present, but not so expensive I'd have to get the webcam out to make ends meet again.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.