The hottest fashion of the pandemic is the pajama set
  • If you splurged on a matching pajama set for the first time over the last year, you’re not alone.
  • Those fortunate enough to maintain an income shifted “scheduled spend” from normal routines to indulgences.
  • People also satisfied their “skin hunger” with silks, satins, plushes, and Peruvian cottons.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In March 2020, Vanessa Diaz was supposed to be in Mexico getting married. Instead she was quarantined in her Los Angeles apartment with her fiance and their chihuahua/pug mix, Raisin Bran. But she had just splashed out on a new set of pajamas she was planning to wear on her wedding weekend, and with no reason to leave the house she started wearing them more — like, a lot more.

Soon, Raisin Bran had his own set, too.

Diaz didn’t stop there, deciding to treat herself when she had to postpone her nuptials. Since she chose a lower-price-point Target set for $22 and kept her job in PR, Diaz was able to splurge on more sets, and over the course of a year she spent more than $100 on new pajamas. She said she’d never bought this much sleepwear before.

Prior to the pandemic, Diaz said, her leisure clothes consisted of oversized T-shirts. On the subject of pajamas, she said, “I just thought it was kind of like an unnecessary, luxury purchase, you know?”

Yes, we all know. Last April, PJ sales spiked 143% compared to March, launching an intimates-fueled year of quarantine. And in the year leading up to January 2021, market research firm NPD Group told Insider, pajamas priced at $50 or more grew at triple the rate of the total pajama market. In 2019, the global industry was worth more than $10 million, and it’s projected to reach more than $18 million by 2027. 

Even the ultrawealthy got in on the action, fueling a boom in $1,000 pajama sets for the 1%.

The durability of this golden age for modern pajamas may even be a part of the new normal as the world reopens. That will depend on how long “skin hunger” and disruptions of “scheduled spend” continue to change the shape of the economy.

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From unnecessary luxury, to comfort and self-care

When Ashley Merrill founded the pajama brand Lunya in 2014, she said her biggest task was convincing people to pay nearly $200 for something to wear around the house.

“They’re very comfortable spending $250 on a cocktail dress, despite the fact that they’ll maybe wear it once or twice, and very uncomfortable with the idea of spending $200 bucks on a sleep set which they will probably wear 197 out of 365 days a year,” she said. 

That changed in a big way in 2020, as pajamas took the place of office clothes, red carpet glam, and streetwear. Those in the $50-to-$200 range from brands like Lunya, Eberjay, and Lake brought luxury to middle-class bedrooms, and sub-$50 sets from the likes of Target and Marshalls also served as a self-care indulgence for many in quarantine.

The market has shifted, Merrill said. Her brand, which has historically sold its washable silk sets in solid, neutral colors, is launching its first pattern. Merrill said she believes people have proven they’re willing to splurge on at-home clothes and are ready for a little more distinctive.

“We’re playing with some things that are a little more special, a little novelty, because we’re realizing, people are ready,” she said. “They now get the value of what it would mean to have something that they feel great in around the home.”

We’re suffering from ‘skin hunger’

In the last three months of 2020, searches peaked for pajamas on the shopping app Liketoknow.it, with over 200,000 unique queries for the term. A spokesperson for the company said shoppers are on the hunt for “silk pajamas,” “pajama sets,” and “satin pajamas” — all of which had triple-digit month-over-month growth last year and still sit in the top searches today.

These fabrics satisfy what Lorna Hall of London-based trend forecasting firm WGSN calls “skin hunger.”

“Many of us are starved of touch,” Hall said, “so tactile fabrications become really important, because they sort of mimic touch.” She said silks, satins, and plushes are examples of fabrics that satisfy this need. 

The spokesperson for Liketoknow.it separately agreed with Hall. “Our consumers are very much still in the cozy mindset, with search data for things like loungewear, matching sets, nap dress, and home bedding all trending since the start of lockdown last year,” the spokesperson said.

Anne Read Lattimore and Cassandra Cannon, the cofounders of pajama brand Lake, said their most popular product had a blowout 2020. They sold 38,816 Peruvian pima cotton short sets, contributing to a 136% year-over-year increase in revenue. Lunya, which Hall credits with bringing washable silk to the masses, claims it has doubled revenue every year since launching in 2014, but declined to share exact figures.

The pandemic disrupted our ‘scheduled spend’

Among a certain set of customers, Hall told Insider, the pajama splurge could be the result of “lots of cash, nowhere to go.” 

“The luxury pajama really fulfills a way to spend that makes sense, because you can wear them straight away, which, with a lot of apparel at the moment, you just can’t,” Hall said. “And you don’t have the event to wear something luxury and decadent to, because those events really don’t exist.”

Self-care items like pajamas took the place of what Hall calls “scheduled spend” or the purchases people regularly made in their pre-pandemic routine, like coffee, commuter fare, and lunches out. As routines changed, so did our regularly scheduled budgets. After all, Hall said, “bedtime is a thing that comes around every day, and lounging around in the house certainly is like a ubiquitous state for many of us.”

Plus, as Paris Fashion Week demonstrated, it’s no longer just about bedtime. Designers brought pajama-inspired looks to the catwalks this year, Hall said. “With pajama dressing and luxury nightwear, there’s a real crossover at the moment on the catwalks,” she said, describing Jil Sanders’ slip dress as “ostensibly going-out wear, but it’s a slip dress that could also be worn as a night dress, or is related to the night dress in terms of its shape.” In addition, Fendi’s wide-legged pants and intimates-inspired dresses fall in this category of “silky, satin-y, easy-to-wear, pajama-type wear as well.”

Hall said she believes the pajama boom will stick around post-pandemic, bolstered by designers’ pajama-inspired going-out wear. “Once you’ve treated yourself to something that’s of a certain fabric and quality level, it’s quite hard to go back when you’ve had the luxury sleep item.”

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