You look as if you slept in that

Easing onto campus in flannel and fuzzy slippers is no longer that unusual

Family Matters

November 30, 2003|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Staff

Once, it was your worst recurring nightmare: You went to school wearing only your intimate apparel.

Today, that nightmare -- in a less risque form -- has come true. Pajamas, and often slippers, have become public attire. This time, nobody seems to notice. Those roomy, flannel pajama bottoms, sold by the gazillions at Old Navy, American Eagle and other youth-oriented retailers, are worn to dinner, class and the movies as nonchalantly as if they were jeans.

Fredrica Newman, a Goucher College freshman, was recently spotted on campus heading to lunch while wearing a sweat shirt and SpongeBob SquarePants pajama bottoms from Target; the very same SpongeBob SquarePants pajama bottoms she wore to bed the night before.

"It's easier to go to class in my pajamas than to actually get dressed," Newman says. "It's just like I can't get up any earlier," the 18-year-old from Lanham says. Her classes all fall in the morning, and she plays basketball in the late afternoon and evening. "I'm not done until 7 or 8 p.m. and then I have to do homework. I don't get to bed until 3 or 4 a.m. I'm exhausted. Getting dressed is one more thing I'd have to get up earlier for."

Newman, who is considering a major in communications, is among the legions of consumers, who, thanks to a flood of comfort clothing on the racks, no longer have to get dressed to face the day. For the last couple of years, flannel pajama bottoms have increasingly ventured beyond home and the dorm to new, highly visible frontiers. On any given day, the pajama-wearing public can be sighted pumping gas, dining at Pizza Hut, ambling over the Loyola College campus, grocery shopping, walking the dog and performing many other daily tasks.

It's understandable. Flannel jammies, especially those featuring Hong Kong Phooey and other cartoon characters, cheeky monkeys, or psychedelic paisleys produced by an abundance of savvy labels, are cuter -- and more evocative -- than sweat pants. Wearing them is a way of straddling childhood and adulthood. You don't have to outgrow your security blanket; you can wear it! In doing so, the line between inner and outerwear, already indistinct, blurs beyond recognition. Add a pair of slippers and / or a bathrobe, as some do, and the back-to-the-womb look is complete.

No matching tops

Not surprisingly, the trend plays perfectly into the findings of a "State of Comfort in America 2003" survey taken by the Karen Neuburger company, which specializes in sleepwear. "For most Americans, comfort is one of the most critical elements of everyday life," the survey found.

Mike Manglitz, a Goucher senior, has made a name for himself on campus because of his penchant for comfort. "I'm known as a guy who wears pajamas a lot," Manglitz says. When they awaken in the morning, "some people change. I don't. I like to be comfortable," he says. "Professors don't bat an eye."

Manglitz, an English major from Greenbelt, does suffer from a certain stigma as the guy who wears pajamas a lot. "If you wear pajamas during the day and in the dining hall, people start to think you never shower," he says.

Untrue, Manglitz insists. Though, "I must admit, there are times when I go from one pair of pajamas to another pair of pajamas with a shower in between." And not to worry, "I never wear the same pair of pajamas twice in a row without washing them."

Nor does he ever wear a matching pajama top, a serious fashion faux pas. "I don't wear the tops. No, no, no. Oh geez," Manglitz says, grimacing at the thought.

Not everyone is as enamored of comfort and ease in the morning as Manglitz. You won't catch Angela Wright, for example, in her pj's in Towson University's dining hall, where she sees plenty of classmates eating breakfast in their flannels. "It's funny," says Wright, a 23-year-old junior from Suitland who is majoring in computer information systems.

But it's not for her. "No, I like to wear my clothes out in public," Wright says. "I like to get ready in the morning."

Dress code concerns

While colleges as a whole appear to take a liberal approach to students in pajamas, more than a few public school systems around the country have dress codes that specifically forbid them, with the occasional exception of "spirit weeks," when pajamas may be allowed for a day. The trend has forced some administrators to split hairs when ruling on pajama propriety. In one case, a Rhode Island school decided that pajama bottoms were acceptable, but that pajama tops and bottoms, worn together, were not.

The Baltimore County school system does not mention pajamas, or any other specific garment other than footwear in its dress code, says spokesperson Doug Neilson. In general terms, the code emphasizes "cleanliness and proper dress." Individual schools have the option to set up their own, more targeted dress codes, Neilson says.

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