From a world beyond casual, a dimension without shape or size, a place where Rod Serling hosts Project Runway, come PajamaJeans. Sold by the thousands on Home Shopping Network and through TV commercials, PajamaJeans are exactly that. They are Snuggies with legs, "jeans" that pull on and, apparently, stay on right through REM sleep.
Made of a cotton-Spandex blend called "Dormisoft," sold for under $40, they come in all sizes. And by "all," I mean all the way up to 3X. In women's sizes, a 3X is somewhere between the first night of The Biggest Loser and having to be buried in a double-sized casket. It's a big size. Or as a saleslady at Macy's once told me, "Three-X isn't extra large. It's huge."
Not that I'm knocking the big ladies. I'm a rather generously proportioned lady myself, with jeans in my closet in a variety of sizes. I like to say I wear a size 10, but a 12 feels so good I buy a 14.
PajamaJeans are made for ... whom? Gals who regard real denim as too formal for everyday-wear? Who can't burn a calorie snapping and zipping normal jeans? Who can't be bothered changing out of jammies when they leave the house?
In the ads for PajamaJeans and when they hawk them at midnight on HSN, one of the most emphasized attributes of this garment is "you can even exercise in them." Come on, do we think PajamaJean wearers are turning out for boot camp at dawn, squat-thrusting and lunging in these babies? Are they going deep-sea diving and parasailing in their drawstring stretch pants?
PajamaJeans say "sofa." They say long afternoons of Lifetime movies and bowls of pudding and "Why don't you kids go bother your father?"
There are hundreds of customer comments on the HSN web site about PajamaJeans. Buyers complain that the flannel lining is too hot and that the waistband isn't stretchy enough. One customer said she didn't like them but her husband did and he started wearing them once he removed the drawstring. One commenter wrote, "These aren't jeans that are comfortable like pajamas. They ARE pajamas."
No, they're not. They are symbols of our continuing descent into entropy, into a state of inert uniformity presaged earlier in this century by the mass wearing of Uggs. PajamaJeans are just Uggs for your ass.
Village Voice columnist Michael Musto has a stinging rant this week about how our culture has devolved into terminal, tasteless blandness. "We've become lollygagged cows on couches," writes Musto, "lulled by a succession of reality shows that serve faux confrontation to make us feel better about our own significant lack thereof."
And for non-confrontational lollygagging, the perfect couch couture - cow-ture, if you like - comfy enough to spend a good 16 to 18 hours eye-glued to Sister Wives and Nancy Grace is PajamaJeans.
One hundred years ago, daytime clothes for the average American woman (who wasn't on a farm) started with cotton undergarments layered under ankle-length skirts and long-sleeved blouses with high necks. The most fashionable skirt shape back then was the "hobble," like an upside down onion with the narrowest opening at the ankle. Women, already cinched tightly by boned corsets, could barely walk in these things. Accessories typically included a wide-brimmed hat, gloves, high-buttoned boots and thick stockings.
Not until after WWI with the revolutionary styles of Coco Chanel did women's clothing soften up and become stretchy and loose, losing the waist-cinchers and hobbled skirts. Coco made her dresses from the fine knit fabrics used for men's undershirts.
I'm glad we don't have to wear corsets and gloves anymore, but I'm not sure what Coco Chanel would make of PajamaJeans. (I already know that Tim Gunn hates them. He said so on The Rachael Ray Show.) I would like to think Coco would appreciate their ease of movement but hate the laziness of their design, because they really are just tight, ugly, dark blue sweatpants with back pockets.
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In the pilot episode of Seinfeld, Jerry let George know what he thought on the subject and he could have been talking about PajamaJeans.
Jerry: "Again with the sweatpants?" George: "What? I'm comfortable." Jerry: "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.'"
Project Runway returns for its ninth season at 9 p.m. CT, Thursday, July 28, on Lifetime.