03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pajamas in Public Places

A New Year brings the promise of new beginnings and new ways of knowing. Yet I am not prepared for what appears to be a new, growing, cultural trend.

This morning at a hotel breakfast with family and friends after celebrating new year's eve, all of us sat befuddled at the number of people who came to the hotel dining room for breakfast in pajamas. Trying not to stereotype, we first thought that it was a function of the characteristics of some of the patrons -- perhaps they didn't realize that a hotel was a public place and not their rented home or maybe they were just a bit hungover from the night before. Then we thought it might be a generational thing, but noticed fellow baby boomers garbed in sleepwear. (One particular eye sore was a man, that as kids we would have called "rolly poley," in his "wife beater" undershirt and white print pajama pants. Unfortunately there was not enough print and too much white to cushion the blow of what one could see.) We commented that perhaps this phenomena was due to lack of home training and social etiquette skills of a young adult generation. Then we noticed entire families, Mom and Dad included, seated in pajamas looking literally liked they rolled out of bed, stumbled to the elevator and hit the button to the dining room.

That was a scary thought and we decided to pass around the hand sanitizer again. We might have made special consideration for someone flaunting their favorite pj's as a fashion statement on this new years day, but these jammies had seen some wear and tear and should have been left to be witnessed by only those with unconditional love for that person. My friend commented that the hotel contract stated that appropriate attire was to be worn at all times. We concluded that the operative word in the contract was appropriate. Still, in my mind, it was clear that this wasn't a pajama party theme on a cruise ship but the complimentary breakfast in a downtown (not low budget) hotel of a major city. As we left my husband asked the hotel receptionist if this was a new phenomena and he confirmed that they were beginning to see it more and more.

Call me old-fashioned, but I grew up in a generation where clothes had categories associated with function and locality. We had school clothes, play clothes, church clothes, party clothes, cleaning house clothes, and clothes that we slept in called pajamas. We dressed up to go certain places like theaters, restaurants and especially when we traveled on an airplane. I am not a complete fuddy duddy and understand that many of these situations are more common place today. People have adjusted their sense of fashion accordingly. But when did we get so relaxed that pajamas are now totally acceptable in public places? When did pajamas in public places become commonly worn across gender, races, generations and socioeconomic groups? Did I miss something here?

My work as a diversity professional prompts me to ask what am I missing when something seems so obvious. What seems obvious to me is that pajamas serve as a function of sleepwear. Yet, there seems to a cultural shift. Is it a new fashion statement? A change in social mores? The triumph of individualism? Global or just domestic? I will really need to sleep in the privacy of my bedroom in my pajamas on this one.