It wasn't that long ago that people dressed up to take a flight; throughout the '80s, I flew frequently, and even in economy, most men wore jackets and pants and most women had a dress or a nice pants outfit for the duration of the flight. Airplane socks were considered special treat to be indulged in on particularly long flights and were a souvenir from serious traveling.


Today of course, people wear their comfiest clothing (and bring cozy accoutrements like blankies and neck pillows) while flying, even if just for a couple of hours — and everywhere else, too. It's become such an epidemic in the U.S. that this very site recently asked the question, "Why not wear pajamas all day?" 


All our grandparents are freaking out right now, people. And our great-grandparents, those bastions of the Victorian era, are definitely spinning in their graves. I'm pretty sure my great-grandma, who was known for never leaving the house without gloves and a hat, would have rather lost a finger than appear in public in her nightwear. 


But what used to be the domain of nightmares is now normal — teenagers are rocking cute pajama sets at school and even at the mall, and some of our most admired public figures, (or at least if not most admired, the wealthiest — think Gates, Zuckerburg and Jobs) have made dressing in casual, comfortable clothes de rigueur. In fact, I can't think of the last time I saw someone who wasn't a politician or a banker wearing a suit outside a wedding or a funeral. 


And all of us ladies who run around town in yoga clothes, we don't get a pass — stretchy leggings with slip-ons, a cute tanktop with a bra built in, and a flowy cardigan-thing is basically the same as pajamas and a slippers; let's not pretend it's any more "dressed up" than the teens' printed flannel — it's just the grown up, Lululemon version of it. 


On one hand, I'm definitely guilty of hitting the gym and just changing my shirt and socks and then stopping by the grocery store, and picking up some cat food, and then swinging by the post office, and feeling pretty comfortable running around finding cans of black beans, hauling 25-pound bags of kitty chow and jogging up the steps of the post office. And if everyone dresses in the same easy-to-wear clothing, class differences are muted, and nobody can judge you for your expensive clothes (or lack thereof), which is wonderfully egalitarian, and therefore quite American. 


On the other hand, getting dressed, fixing your hair, and generally taking care of yourself is showing that you have self-respect and expect others to treat you well, too. If we all devolve into dressing as an activity that's only about covering up and comfort, how are we asking others to treat us? And more importantly, how do we divide our days up between slacking and working? If we are always in pajamas, will we be working when we should be sleeping and vice versa? Isn't there some kind of beauty to getting dressed differently for different occasions? We've all had the experience of changing clothes and changing our attitudes. And can we even enjoy how comfortable our PJs are if we just wear them all the time anyway?


What do you think? Pajamas all the time, or keep 'em for sleeping and weekend mornings only? 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Pajamas: Not just for lazy Sundays anymore?
Teens started the trend, but adults are wearing PJs all day now too: Have we become too informal?