the pajama problem

I have some serious issues with the sort of clothing available for kids these days. All the gender stereotyping really bugs me - and Anya's still in toddler sizes, so we haven't even hit the disturbingly suggestive stuff out there for girls yet! When it comes to regular play clothes, I can find enough tops and bottoms that are suitable. It helps that Anya likes to dress plain (like me!) and Daniel generally prefers solid colors and stripes, so I've mostly been able to avoid the messages that I find most offensive.

But for some reason, it's impossible find acceptable PJs. Part of the problem is that kids' clothing sections just have fewer pajamas than regular clothes, so you've got less to pick from in the first place. I really hate the flame-retardant synthetic fabrics (because they are made from petroleum, and the extra chemical treatment creeps me out, plus they just don't look comfortable), so that cuts out 50% of the selection right there. What's left, then, are the handful of snug-fitting cotton pajama sets that inevitably have stuff like "TOUGH GUY" in army camouflage print for boys and "DADDY'S LITTLE WILD CHILD" in sparkly pink letters for girls.

I looked around a bit online, but the only pajamas I could stomach were $50 a set. Lovely, but way too expensive.

This happens every change of season, at those times of the year when the kids need a new set of weather-appropriate PJs because they have outgrown the ones from the year before. Every time this happens I look for acceptable PJs at a handful of stores, and leave either empty-handed or with a set or two that barely pass muster.

It's so discouraging to find that retailers and clothing companies reinforce these annoying and, dare I say, damaging stereotypes. It wouldn't be so bad if there were other options. Many little girls love to dress like princesses and wear t-shirts that say "Daddy's little sweetie pie", just like many little boys want to look like rough 'n tough football stars. But not all of them want to dress like that, and not all of us parents are the sort of clueless nitwits that will dress our children that way.

Last fall my mom got the kids matching superhero pajamas that made them look like Batman and Superman without the capes. They love those PJs, but of course they came straight from the boys' section of the store because, you know, why would a little girl ever want to dress like a superhero?

Rather than drive all over town and visit every store in the mall in search of kids' pajamas that didn't make me want to set my bra on fire, I decided to just buy them some plain undershirts and make pajama shorts to wear for the summer.

Great idea, right? Well, yes, for the most part. Except that now I have a new topic for ranting: pattern sizing. Below is my first attempt at pajama "shorts" for Anya:

I think the pattern is Simplicity, but it doesn't really matter. It's just plain-jane cropped pants with an elastic waist that took about a half an hour to put together from cutting out to sewing the final hem. I made a size 4 because her measurements matched with size 4 on the envelope and she wears size 4 in all of her purchased clothing and fits it all perfectly. But these? Are HUGE. Adorably so, but still.

I got smart on the next pair and cut out a size 3, chopped off an inch from the waist and shortened the legs by a good 3 inches. Much better, but as you can see, still plenty roomy.

Daniel needed some shorts, too, so of course I made him a couple pairs. I used a different pattern, but had the same problem. When I cut out what was supposed to be his size, those shorts would have pulled up all the way to his armpits if I hadn't chopped out several inches from the crotch. The length is okay but I would take out some of the fullness in the legs if I could do it again.

What sort of giant kids are they making these patterns for, anyway? The shorts turned out all right, and the kids are happy with them, so in the end it has all worked out.


Jullie said…
Glad to see you found a solution of sorts by making your own pajamas. I, too, have found success with sewing pj shorts/capris/pants -- my boys never quite know what they'll be until I'm done sewing because quite honestly, I just try and find a way to make 1 yard of a cool flannel transform into two pairs of bottoms, using other scraps to make it go farther. I usually measure their waists and inseams and compare it to the pattern sheet itself, but it's not an exact science. Then I trace it onto cardboard or a thicker paper to use next time. Pair it with a cotton t-shirt and you've got pajamas for the non-nitwit set. I've also appliqued some of the bottom fabric onto the tee to make it seem officially a pajama set. Or, we have some immense camp t-shirts that they wear (my 4 yr-old just got a size 10-12 that won't fit for years...argh). Boxer shorts work well as pj's, too, and there usually are handsome plaids available. These ideas make me feel better about limiting the aggravating marketing to which you refer in your post.
revknits said…
Yikes, I agree those sizes are just crazy. Probably the best thing is to take a pair of current PJs that fit, and compare to the actual pattern pieces.
gay said…
i hate to sew anything and pattern sizing is part of the reason why. love your solution to the pj problem. i was thinking how nice and easy it would be to be able to go to old navy like i do and buy kids 100% cotton bottoms on the clearance rack!! also hate the flame retardent poly pj's..ick!
I used to just buy J 100% Garanimals cotton shorts and plain t-shirts for him to wear as pajamas. Winter usually found him wearing sweat pants and waffle-weave henleys for bed.
Oh, and t-shirts. I used to buy mens size small plain t-shirts for him to wear with undies for bed at night in the summer.

Good luck on your search!
Amanda said…
Ugh, I hate kids' clothes with tacky slogans (which seems to be ALL kids' clothes these days!). Your pj shorts are adorable! Looks like you're all set for a summer of sleeping and playing!

Popular Posts