It pays to take note of what the world’s most influential buyers are wearing. Sarah Rutson, vice president of global buying at Net-a-Porter, spent much of the last show season apparently in her pyjamas – an early adopter of the sleepwear-as-streetwear style she had seen on the catwalks, from bright printed-silk pyjamas at Dolce & Gabbana and floral ones with a tunic‑style top, at Dorothee Schumacher to an avalanche of nightdress-inspired slip dresses, lace-trimmed at Céline, Chloé and Givenchy, bias‑cut at Balenciaga and Jonathan Saunders, sequinned at Saint Laurent.
Last year Rutson discovered Milanese pyjama brand FRS (For Restless Sleepers). “I knew straightaway it wasn’t about wearing pyjamas for sleeping but about beautiful garments for daywear,” she says. “I could feel this was an idea that would catch on very soon.” FRS first appeared on Net-a-Porter late last summer and has sold consistently well since.
At Selfridges, nightwear is described by director of womenswear and accessories Judd Crane as a “major crossover trend”. Sales have grown from £200,000 to £1.2m in three years, meriting its place in the new Body Studio – a 37,000sq ft department (the biggest in the store) also encompassing lingerie, activewear and swimwear, opening in April. “Nightwear details and silhouettes are such a prevalent and translatable catwalk feature – we see it as one of our most exciting and fastest-evolving opportunities.”
Momentum is added by the chicest of women seen out and about in pyjamas and slips – Liv Tyler and Cindy Crawford in the sophisticated 1930s-influenced designs of Olivia von Halle; Kate Hudson in silk prints from Asceno; and Ellie Goulding in gold lace from Gilda & Pearl.
Not that the story is new. Silk pyjama-style trousers, dresses and robes have long been worn as day and eveningwear in eastern climes. Von Halle spent four years in Shanghai and has taken its 1920s heyday for inspiration. “I’ve always intended my pyjamas [£350] to double as daywear for entertaining, so I wanted them to be flattering and glamorous, made in the most luxurious materials. Cut is crucial: they need to be oversized so they are comfortable for sleeping in, but tailored and shaped at the waist so they flatter if worn in public.”
Silk satin slip dresses, of course, were a 1930s screen-goddess standby, and those bought from vintage stores are prized for their delicate embroidery and lace. The slip witnessed a rock-inflected revival in the 1990s (as channelled by Kate Moss, whose iconic metallic version by Liza Bruce is part of the V&A’s Undressed exhibition, opening on April 16). Von Halle wears her own Remy slip (£280) to parties. “It has two layers of heavy silk and is bias-cut so it has slight stretch and support yet skims the body rather than clinging.” Cécile Gavazzi Daccò, one half of new British nightwear brand Morpho + Luna, finds women are more confident when they feel relaxed and comfortable. “We use pure, top-quality Italian silk and Swiss and Italian cotton cut to be supremely comfortable, and in prints not associated with sleepwear.” The brand has black cotton pinstripe pyjamas (£275) and pure cashmere robes (£2,030) that could double as chic belted coats. Amanda Wakeley, who has new double-layered, optical-stripe slip dresses (£1,195, pictured) alongside her signature loose cashmere tunics with satin cuffs (£395), says: “Being dressed down but in gorgeous luxurious materials is a modern definition of sexy.”
Besides, the detail and fabrics in luxury nightwear are too good to hide. As Catherine Johnson of Three Graces London puts it: “Why confine beautiful things to the bedroom?” A former accountant who fell in love with vintage, she has simple but beautifully detailed slips (£250) inspired by the sort of handmade items that were built to last. Carine Gilson, too, has long suggested her clients treat her pieces as ready-to-wear. Her silk slips (from £600), pyjamas (from £740) and kimonos (£750) are famed for their meticulously cut-in fine lace, handworked in her Brussels atelier.
Gilson’s is not the only lingerie label finding its designs doubling as day and eveningwear. La Perla has lace-trimmed silk satin slips (£744) and pyjamas (£309) in myriad shades, while Diane Houston of Gilda & Pearl makes to measure slips (from £600) as well as pyjamas (£450) and kimonos (£750) from her Mayfair salon. Finding a growing demand for her pieces to masquerade as eveningwear, she can add linings, raise a slip-back to accommodate a bra, or insert soft cups for light support in her vintage glamour-inspired styles.
That lingerie and sleepwear are equal to the best of ready-to-wear was evident at Riccardo Tisci’s epic show for Givenchy at last September’s New York Fashion Week. He styled silk pieces in a nuanced and sophisticated way, pairing camisoles (examples pictured, from €995) with tailored trousers (example pictured, from €1,200) and slip dresses (from €1,750) under kimono robes (from €2,800). Chloé added lace details to its signature boho silhouettes (dress £2,270, pictured), and Céline to a showstopping white leather slip dress (£3,150, pictured near left). Jonathan Saunders’ long slip dresses (£1,290, pictured) in desert-shaded silk prints or stripes are on many wish lists, especially as it’s his label’s last collection.
A slip dress needn’t feel “undone” if teamed, as Rutson suggests, “with a big cardigan and grounding flats”, as Christopher Kane showed with his sunshine-yellow dress (£1,595) on the spring/summer 2016 catwalk. Dior’s fresh, scalloped lingerie whites (top, £950, shorts, £650, pictured) work under tailored jackets, parkas or cropped sweaters; Massimo Giorgetti’s cutwork slip for Emilio Pucci (£1,285, pictured) works alone for evening or over a 1990s-style T-shirt for day; while an oversized leather jacket or boyish coat and wellies gives Saint Laurent’s short slips in beaded leather (£19,635) or beaded lace (£2,980) a rebel rock-chick air worthy of Courtney Love. Leather also pairs well with pyjamas worn as separates. Asceno’s Lauren Skerritt, who with Poppy Sexton-Wainwright founded her brand on a shared loved of printed textiles and is inspired by 1990s adopters of the trend like Kate Moss, says: “A beaten-up leather jacket and trainers bring pyjama trousers into day – just be careful to reveal a little ankle – and a pyjama shirt looks great loose over skinny jeans.”
Wearing the full pyjama set, of course, makes a bolder statement. FRS’s 1940s oriental-style florals (example pictured, top, £495, trousers, £495) or denim-effect pyjamas (jacket, £270, trousers, £225) look fabulous with sandals. Dolce & Gabbana’s joyfully bright florals (example pictured, top, £875, bottoms, £875), shown with embellished evening bags and sandals, breathe languorous Riviera holidays, while Stella McCartney’s monochrome set (£275) and Schumacher’s navy and pink blooms (£393, pictured) are versatile enough to wear head-to-toe day and night.
Working life is not beyond the pyjama either. “Throwing on a tuxedo jacket knits the look together,” says Wakeley, while Morpho + Luna suggests its sharply cut, plain linen pyjama trousers (full set, £380) are the ideal partner for a slim, tailored jacket in the modern office. Any doubts about the trend should be soothed by luxury brands backing it for next season – Fendi’s denim and mink dressing-gown coat (£7,250, available in June) is a masterpiece of louche insouciance. And if style moves on, you’ll have nightwear both gorgeous and comfortable beyond your sweetest dreams.