Style Guide

Let's Bring Back Formal Pajamas

If Rihanna approves, why the hell not?

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen June 1, 2016

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Models in Dolce & Gabbana pajamas from the line's Spring/Summer 2016 collection.

Whether we want to admit it or not, there's an obvious line of demarcation when it comes to fashion preferences between older millennials and our younger brethren. Basically it comes down to this: Twenty-somethings and teens are all about discovering and bringing back all the trends from the '90s, from bodysuits (thanks Beyoncé) to chokers. The rest of us have a harder time pretending babydoll dresses are interesting and/or flattering, because we've been there before and we have the awkward pictures from middle school to prove it. I will not be convinced again that overalls are a fun style statement. Fool me twice, etc., etc. 

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Fashion blogger Annacarla e Simona in For Restless Sleepers

Instead, I propose that we look back to an earlier age for fashion inspiration. Our grandmothers' age, to be exact. On Monday, Vox published excerpts from Live Alone and Like It, a guide for single women (a new phenomenon at the time) written by the editor of Vogue in 1936. Eighty years later, the book is full of top-notch advice—"Bargains in liquor, like bargains in clothes, are only for Those Who Know. While you are still learning, never buy anything but the best." 

The best of this advice—at least, as excerpted, as my copy is currently in the mail—is the celebration of pajamas for every occasion. According to author Marjorie Hillis, 

There are … sleeping pajamas, beach pajamas, lounging pajamas, and hostess pajamas. The first two are not designed to wear when receiving anybody, masculine or feminine. The last type is correct for wear when your most conservative beau calls, even though he belongs to the old school and winces when a lady smokes. The third variety comes in all sorts of shadings, from an almost-sleeping type to a practically hostess pajama.

Imagine living your entire life in something as comfortable and classy as formal pajamas. They could be a more forgiving and stylish replacement for the ubiquitous yoga pants, with none of the subtle implications that you plan to get anything strenuous done while wearing them. This isn't just a dream of a bygone era; pajamas are in fact, at this very moment, making a high-fashion comeback. 

Among the luxury brands embracing silk pajamas (though cotton pajamas may be perfectly acceptable, they have a more childish, bedtime vibe) are Roberto Cavalli, Dolce and Gabbana, Stella McCartney and La Perla, in styles ranging from your basic black (let's call it the sleepy tuxedo) to vibrant prints that look perfectly suited for strolls in exotic locales. Italian designer Francesca Ruffini has capitalized on the trend with her line F.R.S., or For Restless Sleepers, which launched in 2015 and can be seen in Houstonia's spring fashion editorial.

"With F.R.S., the pajama finally leaves the realm of the strictly private and its specifically nocturnal purpose, transforming itself into an attitude comprising lightweight fabrics that look good anywhere. In so doing, it reveals itself as a display of independence, reflecting a new and surprising self-declaration," notes the brand's website. "It is a dress and a non-dress, conceptual and light-hearted, a well-thought-out blend of chic and freedom, the uniform for a whimsical rule or a dynamic choice."

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A pajamas set with a modern silhouette by Fleur du Mal, $595

Frankly, with prints this bold and lines this chic, it would be a shame to not wear these pajamas anywhere and everywhere. Another favorite is a version by Fleur du Mal which features a more tailored silhouette, pegged legs and a plunging neckline. It's the kind of thing Rihanna would wear out to dinner and cause everyone on social media to declare themselves dead because of the silk slayage. Actually Rihanna, to no one's surprise, has been an early adopter of the formal pajamas movement, wearing a set by Emilio Pucci to a movie premiere in Tokyo in 2012. Cara Delevingne wore a cheeky printed pajama set to Stella McCartney's Spring 2015 fashion presentation, and Rashida Jones rocked a floral pj set by Erdem to the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in 2013. So yeah, we give you permission to wear a set to lunch at Bistro Menil. 

Pair them with heels and a red lip (it is one thing to dress like you just got out of bed and quite another to look like it), and prepare to fill your life with a relaxed glamour. As Vogue editrix Marjorie Hillis would say, you're having an elegant time. 

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