Designers really want to turn fancy pajamas into glamorous streetwear. The average shopper seems unconvinced.
Yet the fashion industry will not let this idea go, despite your reluctance to wear a pair of silk pajamas to a cocktail party. Indeed, in an uncharacteristic display of independence, confidence and adherence to civility, consumers have been immune to the concept. They’ve ignored the celebrity endorsements and the cachet of designer labels.
The nation is bravely refusing the normalization of pajamas. Shoppers, stay strong.
Mind you, designers are not touting basic cotton PJs, flannel onesies or even filmy nightgowns. They want you to wear extremely fancy silk pajamas and dressing gowns — the sort that you might sleep in, if you had a manservant dressing your bed in Pratesi sheets and Hermès throws. The point of these pajamas, however, is not sleep. They are intended to be glammed up with chic shoes and a handbag, a slash of red lipstick and a significant amount of chutzpah. Perhaps a robe top over trousers and a dress shirt. You’re supposed to wear this look to a holiday party. Or celebratory dinner. Or to the mall.
A significant portion of the fashion industry has gotten behind this notion. This week, a Givenchy floral pajama top was for sale on the Neiman Marcus website for $811, marked down from the original $1,690. That was just for the top; the bottoms were extra. At Saks Fifth Avenue, customers will find a Gucci corsage-print silk pajama top priced at $2,200 and the bottoms at $1,300. And in September, when Bouchra Jarrar debuted her spring 2017 Lanvin collection, the focus of the line was boudoir looks, including a particularly striking black-and-white striped robe worn as a blazer.
Further down the fashion food chain, Victoria’s Secret is selling “after hours satin pajamas.” And J. Crew has a pajama shirt paired with jeans as well as a pajama jumpsuit styled with one of its black Regency blazers and black flats.
To be clear, these are not pajama-style garments, nor trousers that simply borrow the loose fit and drape of sleepwear. Ostensibly, these are pajamas, promoted for both men and women. Indeed, in recent years, entire brands have been born solely to cater to the idea that people should wear fancy pajamas on the street. The Italian brand F.R.S. (both the founder’s initials and an abbreviation of “for restless sleepers”) uses fabrics patterns and rich colors that call to mind life in a Medici palazzo. Piamita was founded by two fashion editors in 2011 with fashion pajamas as its early focus. They ooze charm.
All of these garments have luxurious fabrics, elaborate patterns, saturated colors, comfortable silhouettes. They are, in fact, quite handsome. But they look precisely like what they, in fact, are: Pajamas.
And they are thriving — within the fashion ecosystem, anyway. In the spring, Dolce & Gabbana hosted a “pajama party” in Los Angeles, where guests Naomi Campbell and Jessica Alba were decked out in pajamas. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Booth Moore recalls the model Gigi Hadid wearing a pajama jumpsuit on the red carpet. Moore has also seen the look at fashion-y Los Angeles parties. She, herself, owns a lovely pajama shirt, purchased from a shop in Paris. But have any of these looks really been spotted in the wild?
Moore, author of “Where Stylists Shop,” says she hasn’t seen it. Not even in Los Angeles, the city that turned pink velour track suits into a fashion statement.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast: “It’s a look I haven’t seen hit the streets very much,” notes Joseph Errico, fashion director of Nylon, a fashion and culture magazine based in New York. He likes the idea of it; Errico owns a Prada pajama shirt that he bought way back in the early ’00s. And he’d use it for a fashion shoot. But he just can’t see it finding a niche in real life.
“Does it walk down the street or just from a chauffeured car to a private event?” Errico wonders. “I don’t think it’s going to break out.”
In the nation’s capital, there is no love for PJ style — not even at one of the city’s great bastions of fashion, Hu’s Wear.
“Do people even wear pajamas to bed these days?” emails an incredulous Marlene Hu Aldaba from the fashion trails in Europe, where she is looking at clothes for the next season and avoiding pajamas at all costs. “This feels like another effort by designers and the fashion industry to impose some abstract vision on us . . . Sure, some of the softer ‘pajama’ looks are feminine and flowing, but are designers just sitting around scratching their temples trying to figure out, ‘Where have we not been before: pajamas to dinner! That’s it!’ Pure shtick.”
The fashion industry’s fascination goes back more than a decade. In the Prada 2002 spring collection, the designer included metallic gold shirts cut precisely like a pajama top and shorts that looked like the lower half of a pajama set. And the designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce have for years included a few pajama looks in their runway shows.
But the trend picked up momentum in the last few seasons. “All the cool fashion editors started wearing pajamas,” Errico says. They wore them with their kangaroo-fur-lined Gucci slides. They tossed Céline coats over their pajama-clad shoulders.
And there is more to come in the season the industry calls pre-fall, notes Roopal Patel, fashion director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “I don’t think pajama dressing is going away anytime soon,” she says.
There is a certain logic to it. Remember Kate Moss in her sexy Calvin Klein slip dress? Women wear camisoles as shirts and don’t mind showing off an especially sexy or frilly bra. And folks delight in boarding airplanes or heading to brunch in sweatpants, leggings and T-shirts that make up in comfort what they lack in style. “There’s a degree of function in athleisure,” Errico says. “There’s this assumption that there’s a stop at a gym along the way.”
Pajamas, however, are intimate without the sex appeal. They are all comfort without even the pretense of function. There was a period when rebellious teenagers or overtaxed parents wore their jersey or flannel sleepwear out to coffee shops or the dog park. This iteration of pajamas exuded laziness. They were a declaration of surrender — or, at their silky best, an affectation. (See: Hugh Hefner, Julian Schnabel)
Fashion pajamas are more complicated. They require a certain level of fashion savvy — to make clear that the look was intentional, not happenstance. That requires work. Selena Gomez was recently photographed wearing pajamas on a shopping trip. Her hair was in a low ponytail; she wore bright red lipstick and black stiletto pumps. She looked fashionable, but she did not look comfortable.
Still, Patel is committed to fashion pajamas. She says they have sparked more interest in for-the-bedroom pajamas from snazzy brands like Fleur du Mal. And, yes, people really are incorporating them into their everyday lifestyle. Well, fashion people.
Beware of fashion people. But if you cannot resist their siren song, Patel offers this: “Layer a pajama top under a blazer with jeans and a little slipper or loafer,” she says. “Try a striped pajama bottom with a solid top to give it balance.”
“It’s really about having fun,” she says. Whether you like it or not.