The Christmas Day Dressing Debate: Dress Up Or Dress Down?

christmas dressing

By Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse

The way we dress on Christmas day has always been up for debate. It’s polarizing. There are those who see the day as an opportunity to don their finest jewels and wow in gorgeous, well thought out festive fits. Then there are those who take Christmas day as the perfect excuse to laze about in their pyjamas all day long, guilt free. So who’s right? What should we be wearing on Christmas day? 

Some may argue that Christmas day is full of extravagance and our outfits should reflect as such. Huge dinners, huge family gatherings, a huge, booze-drenched Christmas pud, and a litany of gifts being shared about in rooms decorated to the rafters with baubles, tinsel and fairy lights. The whole holiday is excessive. Dressing up for the festivities can be an extension of that marvelously bougie, over the top christmas spirit. If we’re going to overindulge with our food, decorations, drinks and gifts, why wouldn’t we do so with our clothes?

Others will argue that Christmas day is possibly the only day of the year where it’s acceptable to wear your pyjamas all day long. Presents in your PJs. Dinner in your PJs. Christmas movies in your PJs. Getting drunk in your PJs. It’s the ultimate day of bliss where near anything goes, and not doing anything at all is acceptable, even encouraged! It’s not about being lazy. After working hard all year, collecting thoughtful presents for your loved ones, and spending far too long wrapping them only for each present to look like it was wrapped by a child, Christmas Day is the one opportunity we have to do exactly what we want, at the pace we want, and we want to be as comfortable as possible while doing it. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than spending a full day lounging in your sleepwear before sauntering off to bed with a stomach far too full of indulgent food and drink.

At the end of the day, no matter what we put on in the morning, we all know by at least 4pm, as the sun sets, the dinner goes down, and the initial adrenaline rush of Christmas morning wears off, we’re all going to be in our pyjamas.

Whatever side of the debate you stand on, pyjamas are the most alluring Christmas day dress. We all want to be in our PJs whenever possible but unwritten social rules deny us the pleasure. It’s labeled slobby, lazy, and unproductive. As much as we all want to be ‘that’ person that looks perfectly pulled together on the big day, boasting beautifully bowed presents and crisp red lipstick, it requires too much effort and we’re all effort-ed out 25 days into the festive period. 

Whether you want to simply look elegant while you unwrap what’s under the tree, or you’re toying with the idea of leaving the warmth and comfort of your home on the big day(what’s wrong with you?), how do we strike a balance between looking chic and feeling snug?

Let us answer the question we just asked. The aim here is to straddle the glam/cosy divide. You want to look and feel elegant, but you also want to be comfortable enough to stuff your face with cookies and pie until you physically can’t fit any more in. To do this, we need to luxe up our loungewear and strut about in pyjamas that are just as fancy as they are comfortable. 

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the oversized t-shirt or flannel button-up style pieces that you’ve owned for longer than you care to admit. The key is to find a nice balance between PJ’s and fancy festive attire. This pyjama look demands a smarter cut of comfortable fabrics that allow a more relaxed look and feel. Think silky two-piece sets; slinky, satin trousers; feather trim, exotic prints; luxe, rich colour palettes; maybe a sultry robe could make an appearance. The vibe is less slumber party with your bestie, and more spa-stay at Buckingham Palace.

The tight chains of sartorial etiquette mean we are often left having to reluctantly disrobe from our comfort clothes to leave the house without being thrown judging glares. But the truth is we all want to wear out PJ’s outside, some of us just don’t want to admit it. Pyjama dressing has been gaining some traction for a few years now and if there’s any time to try it out, it’s going to be on Christmas.

 Whether you want to look elegant in your Christmas pyjamas while you unwrap what’s under the tree, or you’ve got places to be on the big day, there are tonnes of chic sets that will make you look and feel great whether you’re seen by hundreds of people, or just a few. 

Nightwear has always been a staple in the wardrobes of vintage clothes collectors – for example, the slip dress or the various interpretations of the corset.Rockstar Courtney Love was, and still is, a pioneer in the underwear-turned-outerwear trend. The silk nightie was a crucial component of her look and donning the slip style dress has become a rite of passage for any lover of her music. The silk slip dress has brought the vintage nightie into mainstream fashion and with the long-living comeback of 90’s attire, we’re all walking about in pieces nodding to the by-gone eras of women’s conservative nightwear. Love’s wearing of the vintage nightwear nodded to a new era where women need not be so precious about looking done-up. Not to be outdone of course, her husband Kurt Cobain did get married in his pyjamas.

Post-lockdown, we’ve seen the incorporation of more comfy, cozy fabrics into our daytime fits; soft-fur floor length coats resembling dressing gowns and fuzzy slipper-esque footwear being just some. You could argue it’s a natural progression for us to start stepping out in full pyjama outfits, no?

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If there’s one thing ‘fashion people’ worship even more than fancy clothes, it’s clothes that baffle the norms. In 2016, American Vogue’s fashion editor Grace Coddington wore pyjamas to the Met Gala, which is one of the most dressed-up parties in the world. Rhianna has been papped multiple times across the decade wearing pyjamas while running errands, going for dinner, popping to the shops. If it’s good enough for Rhianna, it’s more than good enough for us mere mortals.

Turning nightwear into daywear isn’t a task. It’s about finding something you like the look of and want to be seen in. In theory, wearing a two piece pyjama set is no different from wearing a two piece suit, or a co-ord. But Coddington and Rhianna weren’t galavanting around in fluffy Primark sets. If you’re turning your nightwear to daywear, there are some things to consider. A silky material is essential for a glamorous look, and this trend works best with either distinctive, bold colours like emerald greens or mustard yellows, or toned down neutral hues like terracotta or white. Prints work as long as they aren’t what you’d traditionally expect to find on nightwear; it’s a dead giveaway you’re wearing your pyjamas if there’s tiny clouds or sleeping animals dotted across your outfit. 

So you’ve spent your Christmas day chilling out in your fancy pyjamas when you receive an invite to an impromptu Christmas party, or your family turns up at the door dressed to the nines. Add some statement jewelry, a swipe of bold lipstick or eyeshadow, et voila! Christmas pyjamas come party wear. Swap out your slippers for some heels, boots or trainers, and you’re ready to go. When the festivities are over, wash your face, slippers go back on, and you’re off to bed. 

During the pandemic, what else were we wearing? Now we’re going back to the office, to lecture halls, to family homes for Christmas – aren’t we all reminiscing about how comfortable we were lazing in our pj’s all day long? PJ sales spiked 143% during quarantine, going from an unnecessary luxury, to a symbol of comfort and self-care for many. The Wall Street Journal has even claimed pyjamas are ‘the new sweatpants’ for men! Sleepwear could well replace sports-luxe for all day comfort dressing. Paris Fashion Week demonstrated that it’s no longer just about bedtime. Pajama-inspired dominated the runway this year with slip dresses, loose fitting pieces and wide-legged trousers in silks and satins. We all just want to be comfortable. 

Maybe you’re a Bridget Jones, in your kitchy matching set and paper party crown, or a Courtney Love strutting around in vintage lace, or a Rhianna in your stunning satin sets. Maybe the idea of wearing pyjamas all day, no matter how fancy they are, just isn’t your cup of tea. There’s no definitive answer to the Christmas day dressing debate that we can all agree on. There is one element we all know is a requirement of the day though; an elasticated waistband.

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