The case for investing in lounge- and sleepwear

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Maham Uzair questions why we don’t dress up for home the way we do for the office and third spaces

After a decade of crashing into bed with raccoon eyes, I have finally welcomed my thirties with a calming bedtime routine. The nighttime ritual commences with me plucking out two, gentle cotton pads, one for removing makeup with a cleanser and the other for applying the toner after washing my face with a mild, purifying face wash. Nighttime anti-ageing eye cream and moisturiser ensue, with the occasional hydrating sheet mask to lock in moisture.

And then I slip into my sleepwear, the buttercream icing on the cake.

These days, it’s SlumberGram’s summer linen pyjamas in a variety of prints – cascading stripes, pastel florals, polka dots. The pyjama sets I own are not sumptuous silk ones, but I can wax lyrical about their cotton linen fabric, which is lightweight like muslin and breathable in texture. Silk pyjamas in the wardrobe are a timeless staple, I’ll admit, but Olde Hollywood luxury comes with its own tribulations: silk, unfortunately, requires too much maintenance and care for our time-poor lifestyles.  Soft cotton too can help you meld into your bed and sink into those cotton pillows, the comfort lulling your body into a deep slumber.

So, while I’d argue against investing in too many silk pyjamas, I’d like to make a strong case for revamping your sleepwear wardrobe so that it’s tasteful, durable and comfortable. The key reason is this: bedtime needs a ritual and routine to ensure both deeper and more peaceful sleep and in current anxiety-ridden times, we are not getting enough of either. A new Consumer Reports survey, for example, has shown 27% of participants reporting trouble sleeping, and a whopping 68% struggling with sleep at least once a week. Studies also seem to suggest that while there’s no concrete, one-stop solution for sleeping well, there appears to be a thread of commonality amongst researchers that a routine to wind down and a digital detox are necessary for quality sleep.

An organised sleepwear wardrobe helps routinise sleep and rest. Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, warns against hoarding old t-shirts – and in many Pakistani women’s cases, lawn kurtas – for sleepwear. While holding on to worn-out clothes and standalone pieces, such as an old t-shirt does appear to reduce your impact on the environment, I feel a better solution is to buy once, buy well and compartmentalise your life in equal parts. No, the ratty hole-ridden t-shirt is not a good option for bed, because it could impact how you view and value the ritual of rest and sleep; for instance, you may start to think of sleep as an afterthought, just like the act of throwing on a mismatched moth-eaten t-shirt and faded bottoms for bed to salvage their worth. (Perhaps turning those old pieces into washcloths or cleaning cloths is a better idea for prolonging their use.)

On the occasion you do fall off the wagon and stay up at night, believe me, having a curated sleepwear wardrobe somewhat assuages the guilt of a midnight fridge raid and a Netflix session. Because if you do catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror while shuffling back to your bedroom with a slice of cake, would you rather look dishevelled in a ratty T-shirt or well-dressed for any occasion, even a Netflix binge?

Having great sleepwear doesn’t just apply to your daily routine. Taking a set of pyjamas or two with you on holiday is vital for self-care. You’ll feel sated when you pull out your sleepwear at the end of a long day of walking, trekking, sightseeing. Even if you’ve spent the whole day at a rejuvenating spa, doing nothing, slipping into pyjamas at the end of the day is an added treat, a pass to remain in a state of indolence. British Vogue’s Editor, Sarah Harris, for example, recently shared her tips on packing for a holiday, strongly advising readers not to ‘scrimp on luxury’. She takes her Emilia Wickstead pyjamas with her wherever she goes, and that too when travelling with just a carry-on.

So, consider revamping your sleepwear. Order a pair of pyjamas from @slumbergram, @sleepyheadpk, or @bloodorangebyr – something in summer linen with crisp piping and clean lines. And if you do enjoy the first experience, order one for every day of the week. Seven pieces of sleepwear will burn a hole in your pocket initially, but it’ll mean you’ll be throwing a pair of pyjamas you love in the wash once a week or every ten days, instead of every two or three days, lending them longevity.

Now, this brings me to lounging, an inaccurate and superlatively narrow term for clothes that work the hardest in our wardrobe. Yes, we do lounge in our loungewear, but it is also in these clothes that we often run businesses from home. Some of us work flexibly or full-time from the confines of home or a café in ‘loungewear’; others cook, tick off a list of errands or rush out to pick kids up from school in loungewear. I think it’s safe to say there is very little lounging happening in so-called loungewear.

The lines between our designated roles, our lifestyle-based apportioning of work-life – where we choose to work, how we choose to work and the ways towards which we contribute within a family – have become increasingly blurred. And it’s imperative to have a versatile wardrobe that reflects this shift.

Hadley Freeman, one of my favourite columnists and features writer at the Guardian wrote a piece in 2018 on how working from home should never be in a state of pyjamas; after all, as we established earlier, pyjamas are sleep aids and should only be confined to bedtime. Instead, she suggests we ‘dress in clothes that are as comfortable as pyjamas but aren’t actually pyjamas’.

This means we look for comfortable silhouettes and modern cuts that are weather-appropriate. A pair of wide-leg cotton-linen trousers from Mango spring to mind. Adidas’ three-stripe joggers in an array of colours, according to Freeman, pass the work-from-home acceptability test, because they are “not shapeless and depressing, but fit nicely”.

For the top, there are plenty of minimalist and modern options. A well-fitted boxy t-shirt is a wardrobe staple, but if you’d prefer a slightly relaxed cut for running errands, Basic (@basicxwear) has just introduced a crisp, white shirt in a boxy cut and a relaxed collar. An oversized, crisp cotton top or blouse lends versatility to loungewear.

A well-thought-out loungewear strategy factoring in the randomness of our comings and goings arms us for that family member that may arrive for tea, the unforeseen run to the grocery store, the mad dash to a salon or the drop-off to a play-date. Establishing a certain threshold in acceptable loungewear means spontaneous at-home dinner dates with friends, spouses or even ourselves become more fun and eases somewhat the fear of missing out (FOMO) attached to staying at home. Dressing for these in-betweens that slip through the cracks helps to build self-esteem, which is often lost when we feel we aren’t putting our best foot forward in a public or private space.

So, go forth and luxuriate in the process of lounging.