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Vancouver’s Sue Randhawa is an eclectically garbed staple of her city’s fashion circuit. When the pandemic hit and stay-home orders arrived, it affected one of her main modes of creative expression. “It put a sudden stop to what I loved to do every day, which is dressing up,” she says.

Vancouver’s Sue Randhawa, the owner of the Optical Boutique in the city’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood, pushed herself out of her pandemic wardrobe doldrums with pyjamas by Banana Republic and the British brand Desmond and Dempsey, often pairing them with treasures such as shawls and slippers from past travels.Handout

She quickly realized that in order to get through that challenging time, she should translate her love of fashion to her lounge and sleepwear. “The same enthusiasm that I placed on dressing up to go out was now excitement I placed on dressing up when I was home alone. That shift of focus brought me joy at a time that I needed it most.”

Randhawa, who is the owner of the Optical Boutique in the city’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood, pushed herself out of the wardrobe doldrums with pyjamas by Banana Republic and the British brand Desmond and Dempsey, often pairing them with treasures such as shawls and slippers from past travels.

Pre-pandemic, “pyjama dressing” was one of fashion’s buzziest terms. All sorts of well-heeled types were wearing their stilettos with slouchy, silky PJ-like sets out of the house. The look made a subversive statement by incorporating clothing typically reserved for private moments into what we wore in public, while being less fraught than lacing yourself into a corset. In the past two years, though, the pyjama party retreated from the fashion-show front-row to the boudoir as garment purchases trended toward items that were comfortable for home-bound lifestyles. As we continue to nest and tend to self care, wear-at-home finery in the form of tony pyjamas is set to find even more space in our wardrobes.

According to a recent report by Statista, Canadian sales of women’s lingerie, sleepwear and underwear amounted to approximately $381-million in the second quarter of 2021. Fashion brands want to capitalize on this shopper desire for sophisticated sleep attire. In the fall, Montreal activewear label Lolë­ introduced a capsule line of silky sleepwear (plus an eye mask, of course), while Toronto’s Soft Focus launched loungewear separates that double as eye-pleasing pyjamas.

Soft Focus’s founder Sammi Smith started her line in 2017. A self-professed homebody, she focuses on designing pieces ideal for lounging in self-satisfied style. “There’s a confidence that comes from being able to say, ‘I’m comfortable being comfortable,’” Smith says. Her brand’s array of snug-yet-snazzy pieces includes an outsized button-down shirt and drawstring bottoms dubbed the Contessa Set.

While Soft Focus’s pieces appeal to those with a modern, understated aesthetic, emerging label Une Femme New York references Anne of Green Gables, The Three Musketeers and the 1939 film The Women. Creative director T.A. Rudder, who has a background in fashion illustration and manufacturing, founded the line in 2020 after being furloughed. She says she was struck by the disconnect in how stylish individuals didn’t have many options when it came to alluring pyjamas: “I couldn’t find what I was looking for.” She began sketching out styles that addressed an aesthetic ripe with “whimsy, romance and a bit of fantasy.” Une Femme New York’s collections feature generously proportioned nightshirts, as well as charming housecoats crafted from upcycled vintage quilts.

Emerging label Une Femme New York references Anne of Green Gables, The Three Musketeers and the 1939 film The Women.Martina Keenan/Handout

The historical references that permeate Une Femme New York’s pieces and the seductive simplicity of Soft Focus’s wares highlight how the creative minds behind deluxe PJs are thinking as much about good design as creating quality pieces that will last for many sleeps.

“A lot of these elevated pyjama styles don’t feel grounded in a fad necessarily,” says Annette Becker, director and curator of the Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas. The TFC’s 2021 exhibition, Fashion in Residence, focused on at-home dressing over the past 100 years. “There’s so much conversation about sustainability and turning away from fast fashion – I wonder if these are a way to start dabbling in that.”

Former fashion editors Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa built their brand, Sleeper, on the notion that dressing for oneself can double as a visual delight for others, whether they’re following you on social media, stopping by for a casual visit or catching a glimpse of you braving the streets in one of Sleeper’s luxe sets. The pair wanted to create pieces “that were cross-functional,” Zubarieva says, adding that if you’re wearing Sleeper, it’s “good news when someone comes to your house because you always look great.”

Since launching in 2014, Sleeper has developed unisex pyjamas and a bridal line. Its popular Party Pyjama Set comes trimmed with detachable feathers (a boon for both sleeping and garment care). These are looks that exude self-assured contentment – and highlight how pyjama dressing will likely continue to move in and out of the bedroom for the foreseeable future.

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