Lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Nightwear

Today, I’d like talk about pyjamas – PJs, nightclothes, lingerie – whatever we as women wear to bed. I know I’m treading dangerously close (sigh, again) to topics that I’d rather not discuss with the Mother Sugar public but I think I can do this without being too personal. I mean, we all sleep, right?

I’m just curious to know if anyone else feels a little, well, underwhelmed by the options? Living where I do, I am likely not exposed to the variety enjoyed by my city-dwelling sisters. (Well, unless I shop online.) But when I travel to the Land of Large Malls, it’s not like I look forward to shopping for pyjamas specifically. I do look forward to buying other things when need and funds permit, like shoes, clothes, and books (not quite comparable to crack but perhaps to nicotine).

So why is shopping for pyjamas so… meh?

Here’s my theory. I’m going to call it the Bermuda Triangle of Nightwear.

Okay, so it’s not an elegant theory but here’s how it works. At each point of the triangle is a different category of ladies’ nightwear. In no particular order:


Walk into any lingerie shop in a suburban mall and you’ll see cute cartoon characters, hearts, bows, happy faces, the occasional sporty motif, and plenty of flannel, fleece and jersey. Jammies are cuddly and pair perfectly with fuzzy socks, stuffed animals, and hot cocoa.

"Rudolph" reindeer pyjamas

Pink and white reindeer. Source: http://ow.ly/h9QxU


Think Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and you’re onto it. Lingerie has a long history and therefore its very own vocabulary – teddy, chemise, bustier, negligee, baby doll, French Maid, Merry Widow, etc. Hot, sexy and pairs well with bare feet, messy hair and a lot of red wine. Ideally worn in the company of others, or at least one other. (Not quite in the way the photo suggests, but to each her own I guess.)

Colourful lingerie

A nice change from red, black and white? Source: http://ow.ly/h9RsU

Bloomers and Nightgowns

What your Grandmother would wear to bed. To be fair, I’ve seen some very nice nightgowns and some very classy elderly women, but it seemed the quickest way to get the point across. Think billowing cotton, hospital blue polyester, high collars, and terry slippers. Pairs well with curlers, a thick robe tied at the waist, and Listerine.

And in the middle…?


Um… whatever this is

black and white print pyjama bottoms with elastic ankle cuffs

Huh? Source: http://ow.ly/h9QPN


And more plaid.

More. Plaid.

And more plaid.

Okay, okay, enough goofing around.

It’s not that I truly dislike any of the so-called “categories” I’ve poked fun at or even all of the options shown above. Nor is it fair to say that everything does fall into an imaginary category. (Especially once the Christmas season has passed and the seasonal prints are passé.) I guess what disappoints me a little is just that it can still be difficult to find options – in person, in a store – that feel much like me. Do I know what I would choose instead? I’m not sure that I do. But shouldn’t there be something out there for most everyone? I mean, look at the variety in all that other stuff – clothing, shoes, handbags. There are infinite possibilities and infinite permutations of personal expression there. Why not in what we wear to bed?

Here’s where it gets philosophical, for me anyway.

It seems like the categories I’ve mentioned above mirror some very old archetypes. We are either pre-pubescent (and wear jammies), or we are sexual (and wear lingerie), or we are sexless (and wear bloomers). This strikes me as being unfair to women in general. I’m boiling this down to the extremes but it does feel a bit limiting and also a bit obvious.

Oh, and the middle of the triangle? What does that subtly reference? Masculinity.

Plaid, checks, and stripes are traditionally masculine patterns in fashion. Don’t believe me? What do lumberjacks wear? Plaid. What did 90’s grunge rockers wear? Plaid. What has been ubiquitous in men’s fashion for the past year? Plaid. Have you ever watched Madmen?

I’m being tongue-in-cheek here but my point is this. At certain times of the year and in certain shopping establishments, it sometimes feel like I am choosing a small corner of femininity that doesn’t really say much about who I am. Or that I am selecting from the mainstream middle which is as much about my freedom not to be feminine as it is about being feminine in all its contradictions and complexities. Fashion is big enough to make room for innumerable versions of the self. Why does that seem to end at the bedroom door?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Now, I’m going to go put on a pair of slippers, pour myself a glass of red wine, and kick back before it’s time for bed. Nighty, night!



16 thoughts on “Lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Nightwear

  1. At the risk of being risque,
    There is of course another way
    Forget the options, plaids big or small
    And choose to sleep in nothing at all!

    Honestly? Though I have passed the manic temp swings of menopause, I still prefer the feeling of soft sheets on my skin..

    • Hahaha, this is terrific, mimijk. (I love that you responded in verse!) Yes, I suppose sleeping sans clothing would solve the problem in a hurry, save us all a few dollars, and would probably be good for the environment too. I’m looking forward to hearing what other have to say! Thanks for responding. It’s always great to hear from folks.

  2. We were trying to buy my mom some nice pajamas for her birthday, and were disheartened by the lack of choices for women – we found some satin pajamas that were somewhere outside of this triangle, but it took a lot of digging on the internet.

    • It’s tough, hey? Especially if you’re shopping for someone else you want to make them feel fabulous about themselves. I’m glad you found something you were happy to share with your Mom!

  3. Years ago I decided to buck the sleepwear trend and not buy pajamas anymore. I just reallocate comfy house-clothes from time to time and graduate them to pajama status. Who says I have to wear the matching set rife with hedgehogs sledding downhill (yes, those were a real set gifted to me by my mother), when I could wear an old favourite t-shirt instead?

    • Oh, I have definitely done this. My favourite sleep top is an old tank top that I bought for summer and never wore. It’s been great and it still looks new after all these years. It’s not exactly pretty but it’s comfy. I will admit, I have also worn it with Christmas PJs. Reindeer instead of hedgehogs but, hey, it was better than wearing the emtire matching set!

  4. I have one word for you: Eberjey. Their pyjamas address this exact conundrum: not too sexy, no flannel, beautiful, and so freaking comfortable. I have slowly switched my entire Pyjama wardrobe over to Eberjey. It isn’t cheap, but gosh is it worth it.

  5. Thank you for this post! I had a great and much needed laugh. I have often wondered myself about sleepwear choices, but no one seems to talk about it. I live in a drafty old house in New England where it is freezing a great deal of the time… also, I am always cold! I never understood who could wear the lingerie without freezing to death in the night, that being said I have no interest in an LL Bean plaid granny nightgown or the pink penguins flannel set either. Those Nordic print leggings look kind of interesting… might have to check those out.

    • New England is cold. Surprisingly so! I was in Boston for the first time a few years ago and was very appreciative of the leaden, feather quilt I enjoyed in the guest room at my host’s home. I also live in a cold place and used to sleep in flannel pretty much all the time. But two years ago I moved into an apartment that is perpetually tropical. I’ve turned the heat off but to no avail. So my wardrobe has suddenly become less attractive than it used to be. Trying to replace it though has been challenging. I’m glad you laughed. I did while writing it! Thank you so much for letting me know and good luck with the Nordic prints!

  6. What a fantastic post! I actually bought pajamas on the weekend. I usually wait for people to give me pajamas, then I wear the bottoms with old T-shirts. I bought pajamas because I had been feeling a little frumpy. I thought it might be time to feel a little more classy. I’m quite enjoying my new pj’s.

    I had never thought about the limited pajama selection but you’re so right – they do reflect stereotypical and limited ideas of women. Glad to see in some of the comments that there are options out there!

  7. I think I have pajamas that fall within all these categories, but often end up in random t-shirts and shorts. I did go on a pajama spree in anticipation of breastfeeding and nursing and living in a hospital. I was going to have visitors and I was going to be in pajamas! So began the quest for ‘not too saccharine’ mama pajamas- also difficult.

    Good thing too, because I’m still kind of living in them one month after giving birth!

  8. I have so often thought of this! I love wearing things to bed that make me feel pretty and comfy– a way to take care of myself, not unlike my requirement for nice sheets and pillows. I most wear what may fall into your lingerie category, but I don’t really think of it as such–no red satin, no bustier, and not Victoria’s Secret catalog worthy in any way. I like wearing something to bed that’s not such a far cry, aesthetically speaking, from my daytime style. Hence nighties in cool patterns by Betsey Johnson or from Target or Anthropologie, colorful soft pants with a nice black v-neck tee, or the Rolling Stones t-shirt I bought at a concert in college. I totally agree that there is some kind of nightwear vortex in department stores and malls, and absolutely love your analysis of it.

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