Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Men's Style Pajamas

Princess Ann: I hate this nightgown. I hate all my nightgowns, and I hate all my underwear too.
Countess: My dear, you have lovely things.
Princess Ann: But I'm not two hundred years old. Why can't I sleep in pajamas?
Countess: Pajamas!?
Princess Ann: Just the top part. Did you know that there are people who sleep with absolutely nothing on at all?
Countess: I rejoice to say I do not.
~Roman Holiday, 1953

Someone once asked Marilyn Monroe what she wore to bed, and she famously replied, "Chanel No.5". I'd expect nothing less from a bona-fide sex goddess, but when it comes to bedtime fashion, there's nothing I like more in the world than a pair of crisp cotton men's style pajamas. Sure, a tee and boxers will do, and sometimes you want something silky and lacy, but a good set of pj's is the most versatile kind of sleepwear that money can buy. You can go from cuddling on the sofa to catching some zzz's to making breakfast the next day without having to worry about being too revealing or sloppy, or having to throw on a robe if you need to let the dog out or get the morning paper from the front steps. When I travel, the only kinds of sleepwear I'll bring along are pajamas because you never know when there might be a fire alarm that goes off in the middle of the night. Nobody wants to be caught at the Holiday Inn with their junk hanging out. Me and the Boy Scouts always like to be prepared.

The word pyjama/pajama stems from the Hindi word paejama, meaning "leg covering", and men first started wearing them around 1870 after the returning colonials brought them back from the East. In the 1890s, pyjamas were starting to replace the nightshirt for gentlemen and, by the 1930's, they had become a key part of a man's wardrobe. One of the first times that a woman was shown wearing men's pajamas in pop-culture was in a scene from the Clark Gable/Claudette Colbert film It Happened One Night, in which a spoiled runaway heiress and a hard-boiled newspaper reporter find themselves forced to share a hotel room for the night.

Peter Warne: Now just to show you my heart's in the right place, I'll give you my best pair of pajamas.
~It Happened One Night, 1934

I'm assuming that women everywhere rushed home from the theaters, immediately commandeered their husbands' cotton pj's, and went to sleep with devilish moustachioed grins on the brain.

Coco Chanel did her part to popularize pajamas as well in the 1920's, with her "lounging pajamas" that were worn while hosting parties at home in the evenings, and there was even a version designed to be worn at the beach! I couldn't find an image of real-life Chanel in pajamas, but here is Audrey Toutou doing a decent impression of her in one of my favorite movies:

~Coco Before Chanel, 2009

I've seen many fashionistas in magazines wearing pajamas as street-clothes nowadays, accessorizing their pj's with tons of jewelry and sky-high heels. I'd never do this myself (I never even wore sweatpants to class in college), but it's totally an option now for the more adventurous out there.

You can, of course, find pajamas all over the place at all different price points. My favorite places to look are TJMaxx and Marshalls, where you can pick some pj's up for as little as $14.99. A more expensive at $150 - but still affordable if you love them - option is this white-on-white striped pair from Frette, as seen on Cameron Diaz in The Holiday:

The Holiday, 2006

J.Crew also does really nice pajamas in the $75-$100 price range. I have two sets, one of which is a pair of men's pajamas (from back when they made pj sets for men) that I found at a sample sale in Baltimore when I was 16. They are green and have multi-colored billiard balls all over them, and the cuffs are fraying from years of wear and love. Right now I'm really hankering for a monogrammed set of pajamas and, for $10 extra, J.Crew will custom embroider your chosen initials on to either one of these perfect pj sets:

J.Crew Vintage Pajama Set

J.Crew Vintage Short-Sleeve Pajama Set

*Apparently lots of people like this short-sleeved set...the white pair is on backorder until August!

How about you? What is your favorite kind of sleepwear?


  1. Awesome post! I too LOVE pajamas :).

  2. Haha, first off I looove Roman Holiday, and I totally feel the same way as Princess Ann :P I wanted to order the J.Crew Vintage Short-Sleeve Pajama Set with monogram, but was so disappointed they are on backorder. I wish J. Crew would stock classics better!