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Dressing For The School Run: Are Pajamas OK?

05/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Delia Lloyd American Journalist/Blogger Based in London

Thursday is World Book Day. In honor of this event, the head teacher at my daughter's school has invited all of the children to come to school with their favorite bedtime reading, dressed in their favorite pajamas.

She's also invited all of the staff -- and even the parents -- to do the same. That's right. The parents can come to drop off in their pajamas.

My first thought upon learning this was: And this is different...how?

As a freelance writer working from home, I often show up to school in some version of my PJs. And happily so. Wearing whatever you please is one of the many perks of the freelance life.

But apparently, it's not for everyone. A head teacher in Belfast recently imposed a ban on parents showing up to school in their pajamas, which he described as "rude and slovenly." As he pointed out, "People don't go to see a solicitor, bank manager or doctor dressed in pajamas, so why do they think it's okay to drop their children off at school dressed like that?" This was shortly after a supermarket in Wales imposed a similar ban in its store after too many women (it's always women, isn't it?) showed up to shop for food in their PJs. (Yikes! I just did that this morning!)

While my initial reaction was to get the government out of my closet, I did end up giving this matter a bit of thought. Clearly, the head teacher in question thinks that those of us who come to school half asleep are evincing some sort of disrespect towards the school, its teachers and the rest. But I'm not sure it's quite that simple.

A lot of it is just laziness, convenience and the fact that, for many of us, just getting out the door most mornings in a semi-timely fashion is a major triumph, let alone properly dressed.

But there are other things going on as well.

One reason one doesn't overdress for the school run -- OK, one reason I don't do it, except when it's a new school -- is that by not dressing up, I'm also trying to signal to other parents that, some days, I'm really not ready for prime time. Translated: "No, I don't want a coffee. I don't want to chat. I just want to go home." I'm reminded of a friend who once confessed that there were some mornings when she'd just like to show up at school in a Burqa. Amen, sister. I mean, praise Allah.

But, of course, there are lots of mums who show up for the school run in their perfectly orchestrated sweater sets ready to take on the world. And their put-togetherness is also often a social cue designed to convey something to their peers.

I'm also aware that by not dressing up for the school run, I'm sending precisely the wrong message to my six-year-old tomboy daughter. She insists on wearing sweat pants, a hoodie (with zip!) and some sort of clashing, striped non-turtlenecked shirt Every. Single. Day. But how can I possibly harangue her for looking like a slob when I look like something that the cat dragged in? ("But Mommy, you haven't combed your hair yet either...")

All of which is to say is that even the seemingly trivial choices we make every single day are loaded.

And so I think it is an interesting question to ask: When we dress to take our children to school, whom are we dressing for (assuming we aren't on our way to a proper job): Ourselves? Our peers? The kids? The teachers?

And should there be a minimum dress standard in place?

What do you think?

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