In 1927 an advertisement for the Lido in Venice promoted the fashionable resort as “the beach of sunshine and pyjamas". A high society set spent days and nights frolicking on its sandy shores and at nearby hotels, dressed in wide-legged, languid PJ sets. The scandalous trend was initiated, naturally, by Coco Chanel, who was living in Venice at the time and praised the opportunity for women to wear trousers. The carefree look took hold and Juan-les-Pins on France's Cote d'Azur was soon also referred to as Pyjamapolis, translating to Pyjamaland.
We are once again living in the moment of sunshine and pyjamas. As lockdown begins easing, the era of elasticated waists may, depending on your opinion, sadly be coming to an end but, for those of us not ready to squeeze back into jeans just yet, springtime’s beating sun presents the perfect opportunity to indulge in fashion-forward pyjamas. We think fashion priestess Anna Wintour, who once declared she would never wear sweatpants and yet found herself posing on Instagram in a pair of red tracksuit bottoms during lockdown, would approve.
But where to begin if, like many, you've fallen into a sweatpant rut? The way that we dress deeply impacts our emotional state and draping oneself in a pair of exquisitely elegant pyjamas can bring a wonderful sense of occasion to humdrum hibernation – especially when we're all preparing to emerge for the first time in months.
Slouchy can also mean silky, even sexy. Evoke the spirit of old Venice and the post-war twenties by swapping tracksuits for tastefully relaxed, joyfully exuberant sleepwear. Think of a rebellious Coco Chanel in her louche, liquid-silk trouser sets; Paul Poiret’s bohemian harem pants; Marlene Dietrich’s butter-soft, wafting robes and Salvador Dalí in a shantung blazer. Embrace 'glasual' - the modern dress code that is glam enough to put you in the party mood, yet casual enough to wear with insouciant ease.
"I find when I’m working from home and there’s no prospect of leaving the house for any evening plans that my clothes really help me distinguish work time from me time," comments Olivia Von Halle, whose caressing silk-satin pyjamas are directly inspired by Coco's loungewear, with pretty ribbon ties and sparkly Swarovski crystal buttons. "To help me switch off, I’ve perfected my evening ritual – it begins with a long hot soak in the bath with a good book and a G&T and ends with a great pair of silk pyjamas in a super playful print – heaven. Free time at home is the new reality for almost everyone and I think people want to invest in things that will elevate their downtime."
Dial-up the glamour in The Sleeper’s fluid, aptly named Party Pyjamas, decadently trimmed with marabou feathers and voluminous frills. The Ukrainian brand’s sustainably produced, smart PJs, linen shirts and off-the-shoulder satin nightdresses dresses are now a cult Instagram mainstay, favoured by social media’s starlets.
Elsewhere, Italian brand For Restless Sleepers beautifully tailors silk smoking jackets and slippery sets, patterned with buoyant pink flamingos, winged zebras and leafty, tropical jungles. The label was founded in 2015 by Francesca Ruffini Stoppani, whose husband, Remo Ruffini, is CEO of Moncler. She mixes maximalist prints with sleek silhouettes, inspired by the palazzo pyjamas worn in Rome during the 1960s.
Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Balmain and Michael Kors also offer haute sleepwear options, often worn by Grace Coddington, whose signature look is a silky sleep suit (she famously wore a Michael Kors two-piece to the MET Gala in 2018).
How about a Desmond and Dempsey pure cotton shirt, worn with your boyfriend’s sport socks? Or pairing your favourite flannel PJ trousers with a feather-light silk camisole from Anine Bing, the Scandanavian designer with a modern, rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. Jamming out has never been so cool.
"Slipping on a pair of silk pyjamas used to be a luxury for the weekend but the new rules of dressing to stay at home have allowed us all to indulge in a little extravagance as a daily mood-booster," comments Bing. "They have an effortless, feel-good appeal." The ultimate multi-taskers, her camisoles will also look great tucked into skirts and jeans when you do finally leave the house too.
Inject a little fun and frivolity into your at-home wardrobe and embrace the joy that these little luxuries bring, without compromising on comfort. The best bit? You don't even need to take them off to go to bed.