What you wear between the sheets can affect how well you sleep, but today’s nightwear is moving beyond the bedroom as a fashion statement throughout the house, onto the patio, perhaps even out for running errands and Sunday brunch. As Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with market research firm NDP Group put it: “The next generation of casualization will mainstream the use of pajamas as weekend wear.”
The proof? Business is booming. The global sleepwear market (which includes pajamas, nightgowns, and robes) hit a remarkable $29.2 billion five years ago and is expected to grow by 16% this year, according to market researchers at Euromonitor. That means more pajama brands, styles, fabrics, and price points to choose from—hence this guide to help you ID your perfect PJs—whether you choose to sleep in them or not.
How to find the best pajamas for you
Much the way sweatpants became “athleisure” wear, pajamas are enjoying their day in the sun. But unlike those ubiquitous yoga pants and stretchy tops, which virtually oblige you to be active, the new wave of nightwear invites you to celebrate relaxation, even indolence.
“There’s a new interest in a serene vibe at home, perhaps after a very hectic day,” says Renee Claire, founder of BedHead Pajamas. “People want to enter their sanctuary and slip into pajamas that let them get re-centered for the evening. Only then do they feel like rustling up dinner, reading a book, or just catching their breath.”
The concept redefines the term personal style. Pajama dressing is primarily about looking and feeling good for yourself, then those you live with, and possibly the world on the other side of your door. So whether you simply want good garb for restful slumber or dream of making a fresh fashion statement, here’s what to consider when shopping for pajamas.
Focus on fabric first
The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit according to the National Sleep Foundation, and pajama material goes a long way toward keeping you comfortably cool. “I’m a natural fibers person, so I think cotton is the way to go,” says brand and style consultant Jasmine H. Chang. That can mean lightweight cotton in summer (like this Eileen West Cotton Stripe Notch Collar Capri Pajama Set) and cotton flannel in winter.
High-tech textiles, however, are giving cotton and silk some serious competition. Celliant, for instance, was engineered to harness and recycle body heat and promote blood flow after physical activity and during sleep. Comprised of a blend of thermo-reactive minerals infused into the fiber’s core, Celliant received FDA certification as a wellness product in 2017, and sleepwear upstart Lunya uses it for the Restore line (check out the smooth and sporty Pocket Dress).
Bamboo is another newly popular PJs material that also lays claim to temperature management and, particularly important to anyone with night sweat issues, enhanced moisture wicking (to try: Cariloha Bamboo’s Sleep V-Neck Shirt).
Feel-good fit is a pajama priority. Steer clear of anything tight or capable of restricting movement, such as complicated straps that could get twisted or voluminous gowns that gather and bunch during sleep. “Less is more when it comes to material,” says Chang, who recommends breezy PJ pieces—a tank or tee top over tap pants or boxer-style bottoms. All pajama pants should be easy to drop for those wee-hours bathroom runs, but drawstrings have a bit more panache than an elasticized waist. “Flowing drawstring pajama pants resemble resort wear,” Chang points out.
Put it in prints
Traditional pajamas in a unique pattern are an easy way to flaunt your style signature. “Approximately 70% of our total sales are the full sleeve, pocketed pant and top matching set,” says Claire, whose adorable designs have been sported on TV by such stars as Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham. “Printed PJs are a way to invoke romance, tranquility, whimsy, you name it.” BedHead offers a plethora of prints, from dainty hearts to leopard spots to martini glasses—not to mention all manner of florals (we like these Peonies); there are also jammies for men to keep it classic with a shot of fun.
Slip into something new
While traditional button-down PJs will never go out of style, au courant nightwear is frankly fashion-forward. “Women are their most confident selves while they are at home; I wanted to dress that state of mind,” Talia Schlussel, founder of Eyewear—a year-old brand that relies on local LA artisans and recycled fabrics—told Fashionista.com. Her designs are sexy yet edgy; ruffles, frills, and plunging necklines with a modern hipster slant (case in point, the Main Squeeze Romper). Fans of sleeker elegance may go for minimalist silhouettes from No Plans, a new brand boasting racer-back camisoles and floaty “track pants” in Cupro, an easy-care, gossamer-light silk imposter. No Plans founder Gwen Nguyen dares us to “embrace the joy of missing out” by staying in and lounging around in the ultimate me-time togs.
Proceed with caution
OK, so maybe JOMO is the new FOMO—we still have to walk the dog, dash to the deli, and see our friends. So the tricky part of today’s PJs is how to wear them outside the home. “I’m all for casual dressing as long as it’s stylish, not sloppy,” says Chang, adding that some technically nice sleepwear still belongs behind closed doors. “Full-on satin PJs in public is a walk of shame gone horribly wrong.”
If you’re tempted to promenade in pajamas, Chang counsels: “A slip-style nightie can be great by day. Look for something cut on the bias, which is flattering to the body, and if you’re large busted, wear a tank or T-shirt underneath. Black pajama pants in a quality brushed charmeuse—nothing shiny or clingy—can be chic for evening, paired with a fitted top.”
Be sure to accessorize wisely. The sneakers you lace up for athleisure would be off-the-mark with PJs, and slippers for the master suite can’t cut it on the street. Instead, try a flat sandal, thong, mule, or maybe a thin-soled loafer. Yet feel free to experiment. A moto jacket over a sleepwear jumpsuit? A cap-sleeved cotton pajama top with jeans? Try it on and check yourself critically in a full-length mirror. If you think you’ve nailed the latest laidback look, go for it; if you have the slightest doubt, don’t wear it out!
Sick of being covered up? Sleeping in the buff is another option. Here are seven reasons to sleep naked tonight.