By Ellie Badanes, Founder and President of ThePajamaCompany.com.
When the headline first appeared in my Google Alerts that a parish in Louisiana was attempting to enforce a ban on wearing pajamas in public, I barely gave it a second glance. Unfortunately, that is a sign of the times when I hear about another school banning its students, or even parents, from wearing pajamas on its premisses nearly every week.
But as I read more about Louisiana’s Caddo Parish District 3 Commissioner Michael Williams’ attempt to push through an ordinance that would prohibit anyone from appearing in public wearing “a garment sold in the sleepwear section of department stores,” I realized this was emblematic of a more concerning trend in our country.
Now, I’m not just saying this because I happen to own an online store which sells only sleepwear apparel. I am saying this because I believe clothing is one of the greatest forms of personal expression in our modern world. And personal expression is something that must not be limited in a successful democracy.
I founded The Pajama Company eight years ago because after a career in the fashion industry in New York and traveling the world working for an international women’s NGO, I realized pajamas were my favorite type of clothing. After two decades of wearing power suits and ball gowns, I found pajamas were what I wore to feel my most creative, to feel my most comfortable and to express myself most fully.
That kind of power should never be taken away from the people.
Now perhaps you are reading this news and agree that kids wearing plaid pants in public is distasteful. Chances are you would also frown upon boys wearing baggy pants or girls in short skirts with heels. Fortunately, in America we all have the right to make our own judgments, to share our thoughts with our friends or our social networks. We can celebrate the ridiculousness of the fashion choices of people we see on the street on sites like “People of Walmart” or on shows like “What Not To Wear.” But we would never walk up to those people and tell them to change their clothes. In fact, we would be dismayed to see them charged with a crime based on their choice of apparel.
As we learn from TLC’s Stacy and Clinton any item of clothing can be manipulated to look either tacky or stylish. For me, there is nothing better than putting on a crisp pair of pajamas with mascara and a great pair of shoes.
And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Pajamas and items sold in the “sleepwear section” of stores have recently been worn on the red carpet by the likes of style icons Rachel Roy and Ryan Gosling and highlighted by fashion columnists and bloggers. In November, Marie Claire ran a slideshow touting the latest trend of pajamas in fashion with a subhead reading “there’s nothing sleepy about this timeliness trend: Loungewear wakes up to luxe.” Glamour instructed its readers to look fashionable by staying in pajamas over the weekend. Even Prada designed a line of high end pajamas, which are definitely not meant to be concealed in the bedroom.
And how dangerous can pajamas be when a pastor of a church in Toledo actually encourages his congregations to come in their sleepwear to Sunday services?
Williams cited citizens’ uncomfortableness with the trend of public pajama wearing as his reasoning for the ban.
For a child of the 1960’s like myself, there is something especially uncomfortably familiar with an authority figure attempting to ban youth from exhibiting a fashion trend for fear of what it represents.
How is this different than schools and businesses banning young men from wearing their hair long in the 1960’s or schools preventing kids from wearing denim in the 1950’s? For that matter, it is even reminiscent of a time when women wearing pants was frowned upon in public.
It’s nice to see that Commissioner Williams doesn’t feel the “crime” of wearing pajamas warrants jail time, merely community service. Who joins me in cheering pajama clad citizens who already affect good in our society, who already volunteer in their local communities?
Last year a high school in Vermont banned pajamas in school claiming pajamas inhibited students’ work ethic.
I imagine the legions of bloggers and those who work from home would take issue with that statement.
Whether you think pajamas are appropriate daily attire is for you to decide. As for me, please excuse me while I put on my pretty striped cotton pajama pants and get back to work.