What your winter pyjamas say about you

From granny nighties to party PJs, there’s a style for everyone

Silk velvet PJs, £530, Olivia von Halle
Silk velvet PJs, £530, Olivia von Halle

In the past, what your pyjamas said about you was simple: you were ready for bed. Not anymore. Pyjamas – like tablescaping, the hand soap in your downstairs loo and the books stacked on your bedside table – have become statements of personal taste, and a big business to boot. That’s particularly true around Christmas, when people buy them as gifts, as costumes for family photos and, well, to sleep in. 

At John Lewis, pyjamas are challengers to the velvet dresses and cashmere jumpers that have been long-standing staples of more formal winter wardrobes. A third of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed for the retailer’s recent Festive Traditions Tracker said they plan to remain in pyjamas for all of Christmas Day – boosting sales of women’s Christmas pyjamas by 52 per cent versus last year.

Not that the rise of the all-day PJ necessarily indicates that everyone is dressing down. “A lot of people don’t buy pyjamas to sleep in anymore. They buy them because they want to elevate their downtime and feel a bit more glamorous at home,” says Poppy Sexton-Wainwright, founder and creative director of Asceno. The brand’s sleeper hit of the season (sorry) is a set of gold silk-velvet pyjamas – fabulous by candlelight. “We’re seeing that people are dressing these pieces up and wearing them to entertain.”  

Silk velvet PJs, £500, Asceno

Then there’s gifting. A pair of posh pyjamas can be a Goldilocks gift: personal but not intimate, luxurious but not overly frivolous, useful but not utilitarian. Plus, it’s easier to guess the size for PJs than for a dress or shoes. Plus plus, people really want them. Analysts have noted that sleepwear sales get a second, smaller fillip in January, driven by shoppers buying themselves the pyjamas they actually need or want for winter. 

The biggest sales driver, though, is family-matching – an Instagram tradition imported from the US that sees entire families wear matching pyjamas on Christmas Eve. Gap has seen a “big surge” in matching-family pyjamas already, with sales up 40 per cent on last year (with triple-digit growth in the pet-pyjama category, so not even the dog feels left out). 

Flannel PJs, £50, Gap

If you’re intrigued by matching but want to do it in a modern, minimal way, one word of advice: don’t. “You’ve got to make it really cheesy or make it feel really vintage. Either way, it’s obligatory, especially when you’ve got little kids,” says Alice Joule, head of concept and styling at Joules, where the paisley-print and checked flannel pyjamas are current bestsellers. “At the time, it may feel a bit cheesy, but you’ll look back on it and be so glad you had that moment around the tree.” 

Read on to find out what your favourite pyjamas say about you…

What’s your pyjama tribe?

The granny ones

If asked to choose a sleepwear icon, you’d name The Nutcracker’s Clara or a Victorian ghost. The granny nightie – typically run up in light-as-air white cotton, with decorative smocking around the neckline and cuffs – brings vintage style and a touch of romance to sleepwear. If you’re a dress fan by day, this classic choice probably feels more “you” than any standard pyjamas ever could. The airy cuts are a cool relief for hot-flashers, but if you’re feeling the chill, pull on a shawl or a fabulous bed jacket with your favourite cashmere socks. 

Organic cotton voile nightdress, £110, If Only If; Hand embroidered nightdress, £125, Smock London

The matchy-matchy ones 

You know the saying: the family that wears matching pyjamas on Christmas… gets through the day without a meltdown. Or something. Doesn’t matter – family jim-jams have been part of your vision for a storybook Christmas for a few years now. And why not? Younger kids will go along with it if they want their presents, and even if the teenager groans, he’ll come around – this tradition is more fun (and photogenic) than cringey Christmas jumpers ever were. Two tips: shop early (no one wants to clash with the tree or miss out on getting the right sizes). And practise with that self-timer before the big day – this tradition is all about the photo.

Cotton PJs, £59,95, Joules

Two-piece PJ set, £36, Pyjamily

The razzle-dazzle ones

Your favourite pyjamas are too chic for sleep. These printed silks and rich velvets call for a cocktail, or three. Truth is, you weren’t convinced by the idea of PJs with heels – until you tried it, and immediately understood that the look offered a shortcut to party-season elegance, no constricting waistband needed. If you already own a feather-trimmed set from last year, double down with a new pair of party pyjamas in velvet. Wear them with gold jewellery and a red lip now, chunky knitwear at the pub later.

Silk velvet PJs, £530, Olivia von Halle

Silk PJ trousers, £280, Hayley Menzies

The guilty-pleasure fleecy ones

For you, no homecoming is complete until you kick off your heels and ping off your underwired bra. Then you’re all about getting cosy, selecting pyjamas based on softness alone. The higher the fleece factor, the better. (Which is why you’ve been known to borrow your daughter’s Oodie when she isn’t looking.) The snuggliest flannel or fleece pyjamas represent the triumph of comfort over slinkiness, and that’s fine by you. Who cares how they look when they feel this good? Although, know what? They do look pretty good, too.

Fleece blanket hoodie, £80, The White Company; flannel PJs, £130, Toast

The doubles-as-daywear ones 

You’ve worn pyjamas on the school run without apology. You’ve also searched high and low for something to wear down to breakfast when you’re staying with the in-laws that isn’t quite as dressed as jeans and a jumper, nor as relaxed as your favourite home pyjamas. Luckily there’s a treasure trove of brands whose pyjamas are day-worthy. Try the top as a blouse, or throw on a neat knit with the trousers. Or wear the full set and dare anyone to comment on it. You know you want to. 

Cotton PJ set, £165, Honna

Cotton PJ set, £85, Daphine

The borrowed (never to be given back) ones

Sure, you bought these pyjamas as a gift for your husband/boyfriend/partner. True, your motives may not have been altogether selfless. No, the hint that he should stop wearing the same holey tracksuit bottoms he’s slept in since uni didn’t take, and the upgraded pyjamas have been languishing in his activewear drawer. Which is a waste, really. Is it so criminal that you’ve borrowed them for your own use for, oh, the past two months now? It’s not like he’s noticed. You’d return them if he ever asked. Anyway, all the Tekla styles are unisex, so they could just as easily be yours… right? 

Cotton PJ set, £175, Desmond and Dempsey

Organic cotton trousers, £113, Tekla

Get inspired

Cotton poplin PJ set, £145, Darn

Cotton blend cardigan, £165, Eberjey

Brushed cotton PJ set, £240, Hamilton and Hare

Brushed cotton PJ trousers, £38, Boden

Brushed cotton PJ set, £350, New and Lingwood

Brushed cotton velvet PJs, £135, Sian Esther