Shlumpadinkas. They’re everywhere—in your supermarket, at the mall, in your kid’s elementary school parking lot. You’ve seen them. They’re the ladies in sweats, the pyjama mamas, the “flannel jammy faction” (as one Twitter post called them)—and the latest demographic targeted by the Vermont-based PajamaGram company with its new product, PajamaJeans, a snuggly garment billed as “pajamas you live in, jeans you sleep in.”
“We were noticing that people were wearing their pyjamas on airplanes and in grocery stores. But a lot of people have mixed feelings about it because they think it’s inappropriate and sloppy,” Stacey Buonanno, PajamaGram’s merchandising manager, told the blog Style List. “We thought, why don’t we develop something you’re comfortable hanging around the house in or sleeping in, but that looks acceptable when you go out?”
Washed in a deep indigo, the stretchy, boot-cut trouser is made of a mixture of cotton and spandex—a proprietary blend called Dormisoft—that apparently doesn’t stretch out with wear, unlike the knees and seat of your favourite jeans. The PajamaJean has a soft, jersey lining, complete with bright-yellow topstitch seams, pockets and rivets, an ambitious design intended to deceive the eye. The New York Daily News calls it the “fashion must-have for any woman looking to indulge her inner couch potato.”
The PajamaJean isn’t the first attempt to prioritize function over fashion. In the late ’90s we saw the birth of the Slanket, predecessor to the Snuggie and competing model of fleece blanket with sleeves. More recently, jeggings have seen a surge in popularity. They’re the nylon-denim hybrid that made skinny jeans work on any body type, adding a bit of comfortable stretch. The PajamaJean improves on their comfort factor by taking denim out of the equation altogether.
Fashion writer Laura Kenney wore a pair for three straight days and nights during New York Fashion Week to test whether their stylish facade could escape the notice of discerning critics. Her stealth pyjamas, which she wore tucked into boots, went unnoticed. “Every editor, photographer and makeup artist I shared my secret with was shocked to find out I was wearing PJs,” she writes. When she fessed up to actress Sarah Jessica Parker, Parker told her: “They look good on you, and that’s really all that matters.”
PajamaJeans made their debut on the infomercial circuit in the 2009 holiday season. Within days, the product—only available by phone or online order—was sold out. PajamaGram is currently experimenting with spinoff models in different lengths and washes, including capri pants, maternity wear and skinny jeans. The product, its press release suggests, is an attempt to save women from becoming “shlumpadinkas”—a term Oprah Winfrey coined two years ago when lamenting that women who wear their PJs out in public are “completely giving up.”
Today, that group is getting heat from more than just Oprah. Elaine Carmody, a 24-year-old mother of two, walked into a Tesco supermarket in Cardiff, Wales, one morning last January not realizing the store had recently put up a sign that read: “Footwear must be worn at all times and no nightwear is permitted.” She approached the clerk to purchase a pack of cigarettes and instead of taking her money, the employee told her she could not be served. She was escorted out of the store.
Tesco’s ban quickly drew controversy. While many mom bloggers condemned the move as unfairly targeting mothers, it seems some citizens were in support of the decision. In 2007, Joe McGuinness, head teacher of a primary school in Belfast, sent a note home with his students in which he referred to pyjama-clad mothers dropping their kids off at school as “slovenly and rude.” The London Times reports that McGuinness saw up to 50 mothers show up in their nightwear. “People don’t go to see a solicitor, bank manager or doctor dressed in pyjamas,” McGuinness wrote, “so why do they think it’s okay to drop their children off at school dressed like that?”
PajamaGram understands: busy moms just don’t have the time. Canadian “mommy blogger” and writer Rebecca Eckler gets it too: “I’m an author and I am at home all day long. I am in my pyjamas, quite literally, 22 hours out of the day. I’m at a point in my life where actually getting into jeans and leaving the house feels uncomfortable. So, if something feels like pyjamas but looks like jeans, it’s like chocolate to me. It sounds amazing.”