The talk of daytime pajamas may seem more appropriate in a conversation regarding summer 2020 rather than 2021 style, but there are exceptions. The most welcome and exciting one comes by way of pajama short sets that have recently been splashed across Instagram accounts and can be found in a range of different designer collections.
The gist of the look is quite straightforward: It’s a button-down-top-and-shorts combination that comes in breezy cotton, linen, or other lightweight fabrics. The silhouette takes cues from pajamas and classic shirting with details like notched collars and a single breast pocket, but it’s obviously not stingy on comfort, either. For instance, the fit is loose and there’s often elastic within the waistband. In many ways, the ensemble is very transitional — not to take you from one season to the next, but rather to ease you back into suiting when the majority of the styles you’ve worn in the last year were of the sweat variety.
“Shirting is the perfect transition from the loungewear we all found ourselves wearing during COVID,” says Ana Piteira of Australian sleepwear label Blanca. “It maintains the element of comfort but provides a more put-together and refined aesthetic that I think customers are craving.”
The brand makes a variety of separates to mix and match into sets, both in long pants and warmer-weather shorts. And though the look may be shaping up to be a major laid-back seasonal trend, Piteira wouldn't classify it simply of-the-moment, but more of a wardrobe classic: “I don't think the sets are super trend-driven. Shirting, in particular, is relatively timeless — customers will wear them and then store them away to revisit in seasons to come.” She also explains that the brand’s use of cotton is very intentional. “[It] offers more durability and promotes this sense of longevity.”
Emma Mulholland, the designer behind fellow Australian label Holiday, has also seen firsthand the major response to this timeless look. Her adaptation was inspired by the popularity of her brand’s checkered Kokomo pants. “I wanted something that had [the same] vibe, but much easier to fit and could be worn on a range of sizes,” she shares. The results are Holiday’s “pyjama” sets, which were created with versatility in mind. “I live in linen when I travel so I wanted them to be made out of that, which definitely makes them able to be worn in and out of the house,” says Mulholland. “I also like to split them up and wear just the shirt or the shorts with something plain to match. So, it's really a two-for-one deal.”
Beyond these Aussie creatives, other designers have been championing the relaxed shorts set look, too. There’s Travis Weaver and Simon Black of One DNA, a New York-based, gender-neutral label whose designs resemble traditional boxer shorts. Meanwhile, Sammi Smith of Soft Focus, a Toronto-based line, works with a playful mixed-stripe color palette. Essentially, the options — much like the styling possibilities — are extensive. For a deeper dive into all this comfortable, adaptable, and timely approach to coordinated dressing has to offer, read on.
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“I think people love the simplicity of an all-in-one outfit,” says Mulholland. “It's less choice and they know it works. I also think people are dressing a lot more casually these days.” With this in mind, a soft neutral or pastel color is an approachable way to ease into this pajama-inspired look. When buttoned up, head to toe, the pieces form a monochrome ensemble that can be dressed up with a polished loafer or block-heel sandal. And, in the interest of extending the life of your clothing, both tops and bottoms of this set can very simply be worn solo with your go-to jeans or tees, respectively.
Classic Stripes And Checks
It’s hard to miss while scrolling through Instagram that the most ubiquitous patterns among short sets are stripes and checkers. What’s more? They’re always in a bright hue. “Our customers don't shy away from color,” says Piteira, confirming that shoppers are looking for more cheerful and whimsical options. “I think this is also a sign of the time: Perhaps people are looking to their clothes to uplift their mood.”
Like so many classic summer essentials, these sets also come in floral prints, but each brand brings a very unique aesthetic. For example, one of Holiday’s best-selling pieces is “Happy Hawaii,” a graphic that looks like a hibiscus flower with a smiling face in the center. Meanwhile, designers like Eliza Faulkner have created pieces with delicate buds across a set with full sleeves and an oversize collar.
Even if your outfit M.O. is comfortable and easy to coordinate, that doesn’t mean the top of your ensemble has to precisely copy the bottom. Opt for pieces that intentionally clash colors or stripes for a slightly kookier approach to this classic pajama look. Or, perhaps best of all, work with whatever separates you already own for a DIY (not-quite-matching) set.