How to wear linen pajamas as daywear? This was really more of a question than an offer when I pitched it. Goading myself into a personal challenge, I wanted to see if I could finagle three outfits of linen pajamas that wouldn’t make me feel self-conscious when leaving the house.
I can pinpoint my original inspiration: A man on Broome Street in June of 2018, a few steps ahead of me in the crosswalk. Cloaked in head-to-toe monochrome linen, he was wearing a set of pajamas, and the resulting effect was chic enough to stick to my memory like a wad of gum. The outfit looked simultaneously business-like (because of its matching parts) and vacation-ready (as its flimsy fabric rustled in the wind), and it provided a solution to a puzzle I hadn’t yet solved: how to dress for New York’s thick summer humidity without baring all.
I formed a radical opinion: Linen pajamas are not for sleeping. The material is too scratchy anyway and its sweat-wicking qualities go underutilized if reserved only for slumber. In fact, linen pajamas are a dish best served on a summer day—they’re like a caftan with legs. And they represent a summer ideal: to dress, and therefore feel, like a lady of leisure.
I chose to test drive three brands: Pottery Barn, which seemed to stock the platonic ideal of a linen pajama; Piglet in Bed, a one-stop shop for linen pajamas of all kinds, and Sea Me, a hydrophilic Ukranian brand that specializes in natural bed linens. But I should note that in my crowd-sourcing research, my cup ran(neth) over with noteworthy suggestions: I was surprised to learn that home goods and bedding stores, like Restoration Hardware, The Company Store, and MUJI, are a rich source of linen pajamas, leading me to wonder if they’re a byproduct of bedsheet overstock. Frillier sets can be found via Deiji Studios or Sleeper, and Once Milano sells some with a henley neckline. A few respondents wrote with fervency that, although difficult to secure on short notice, “Irish linen nightgowns from random gift shops in the west of Ireland” and “Maharajas in the Taj Hotel, Mumbai (for the tailored fit)” are the best linen pajamas that money can buy.
One wrinkly obstacle stood between my self-assigned dare and me: I can’t stand linen’s propensity to crease. Still, my challenge awaited.
1. Summer Friday Suiting
Against all odds, this overwhelmingly pink set felt the most appropriate for a power lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. The scarf approximated a tie and the handbag approximated a briefcase. I slid a pen in the pocket on a whim and, in retrospect, it’s the most I’ve ever felt like Truman Capote. I also look a little bit like Leandra Medine Cohen circa 7:20 a.m. getting a cappuccino with three shots and oat milk. You know where I went in this outfit? A linens store.
2. What’s for Dinner?
Here I’ve combined two different linen purveyors. This shirt is the kind that goes neglected in the regular weekly rotation, but when you pack it for a trip becomes the integral element and base layer of every outfit. I had this particular experience last fall on a trip to Los Angeles, when suddenly it felt like the item that best defined me. This is how I’d don linen pajamas if I were going to a summertime dinner and the maternal voice in my head warned that it might get a little chilly.
3. Smooth Sailing
Alas, the true trousered version of wearing a caftan. Cuff your pant legs, roll up your sleeves, and leave work early to make the afternoon jitney. What is more offbeat than wearing a set of linen pajamas during the day? It’s: carrying a hat as a purse.
This genre of fabric was custom-made for the following kinds of people: those who are trying to form a standing desk habit, and those who grimace at the notion of taking a seat on the subway. To everyone else, I say: Embrace the wrinkle. Perfectionists never luxuriate in daylit linen pajamas.