Sleepleisure: A Style Movement Made for the Instagram Age

We have lived through countless cycles of cultural trends becoming fashion trends and igniting wildfire through the invisible wires that connect our computers — and I am only speaking in the context of the last four years.

There was normcore, which The Cut established in 2014 — no doubt a loose byproduct of generation Phoebe (as in, Philo), thanks to her reimagining Birkenstocks as prime fashion footwear, which splintered off to reappraise various other forms of “normal” garments: clogs, sweatpants, baseball caps et al. After normcore came athleisure, a logical next step by the rules of this timeline, built upon the sweatpants and baseball caps and hoodies of normcore but further demanding the frivolous wearing of exercise clothes. No gym class, no problem. Just add a necklace and call it fashion. Then there was menocore, millennial pink and the color theories that followed.

In tandem with these color stories, Rihanna made a case for bathleisure — the recreational wearing of aprés-shower garments (such as robes and hair towels). Bathleisure then spawned a million Instagram photos, but most recently, it is sleepleisure that is building upon the various narratives and establishing its own place within the consequent vernacular.

But that’s just it — innerwear is outerwear because what we do inside is no longer private. By definition, this makes it public. If you’re in a bathtub wearing a towel over your head and choose to take a selfie and release it, the experience no longer belongs to you. As our relationships with social media, the building of our personal brands and the resultant followings that substantiate these brands grow ever more psychologically urgent, the banalities of what we used to do in our own space as mere acts of self-maintenance or indulgence (brush our teeth, comb our hair, eat cereal in bed, wear an ugly sweatshirt to watch a bad rom-com) seem less banal and thus more shareable. Suddenly, our private behavior becomes public.

This can be seen as a blessing or a curse, but I’d rather indulge the former, because publicizing the previously privatized offers the perpetuation of nuanced thinking in that it can force you to challenge notions you have assumed as fact by reflecting inward, reevaluating the quotidian nature of the things you might do on autopilot, like put on pajamas, and ultimately reroute them — make them come alive. Even, dare I say, find joy in them.

And look — we don’t have to find joy in everything. Some shit sucks, it just does, but when shit hits the fan and we’re wallowing in its suckiness, we do have a choice to continue in our brooding or to look for a brighter side. Sleepleisure, like the trends before it, enables the pursuit of this bright side by taking the positive association tethered to the act and allowing for it to bleed into areas outside of its core function.

If athleisure can make you feel like you’re inside the blissful haze of a weekend sin agenda even when you’re not; if normcore, by way of the nostalgia associated with it, makes you feel like a younger version of yourself, free from the burden of responsibility; and if menocore makes you feel like a semi-retired Nancy Meyers-film protagonist, then sleepleisure is a reminder of what is widely held as one of the best parts of the day: bedtime, which either finds you feeling accomplished or relieved depending on how your day went but either way lucky to be in bed. Not a bad place to be.

By wearing a pair of thermals with a matching henley, styled with sunglasses and satin feather-embellished mules and a robe or pearl earrings; or a sequin-adorned cardigan over your favorite T-shirt and silk negligee shorts with extravagant socks and delectable sandals; or a cotton nightgown with a trench coat and gigantic bow in your hair to run an errand or go to work (maybe?), or perhaps just simply to feel how you once did as a kid on Saturday morning playing dress up, you submit yourself to a choice that finds your mindset in opposition with that initial wallowing.

And that’s always what it boils down to, right? Your mindset. Of course, dressing up your pajamas will not dramatically improve your life, it probably won’t even actually make you feel much better for longer than the time it takes to contemplate your reflection, but it’s a start. It’s better than nothing, and that’s something.

Photos by Edith Young. Modeled by Giannina of No Agency, Marina of the Society NYC and Julia of Silent Models. 

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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