Can Sleepwear Be Sexy? Fashion Tips for HYPHEN's PJ Soiree Party From Retrofit Republic

September 9, 2013

Jenny Ton and Julia Rhee of Retrofit Republic


You've boldly decided to RSVP for Hyphen's PJ Soiree: Issue 27 Release Party, happening this Friday, September 13 in San Francisco at FAME (435 Broadway Street). You're excited to watch the Rice Rockettes bring their drag swag. You're curious to see if co-emcees Ryan Takemiya and Terry Park will finally end their long-running bromance charade and destroy each other, Breaking Bad-style. But what do you wear to the flyest Asian American "grown-and-sexy" sleepwear party of the year? Do you dust off your Hello Kitty onesie, or do you kick it Hugh Hefner-style, smoking jacket and pipe in tow? Or do you dare heed the words of one Bruno Mars and "just strut in my birthday suit/And let everything loose/Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah-eah"?

Thankfully, Jenny Ton and Julia Rhee of Retrofit Republic, a San Francisco-based sustainable fashion styling firm, socially-conscious vintage retailer, and event designer, are here to help. As guest judges for the party, they will scrupulously select the five attendees that will compete in the sleepwear walk-off. The winner will receive a gift certificate for 50% off styling services with Retrofit Republic, the runner-up will receive 25% off, and the rest will receive 10% off. So whether you're gunning to be the Zoolander of the PJ Soiree, or you'd simply like to look good, you'd best read this Q&A with Jenny and Julia (be sure to read all the way to the bottom for a special offer from Retrofit Republic).

How do you define the theme of the party: "grown-and-sexy"?

JR:  I think grown-and-sexy is a really subjective concept. For me, so much personal style is really the embodiment of an individual’s personality. Regardless of what they’re wearing, if they’re able to wear something that feels complimentary to their body type and who they are as an individual and they wear it with confidence, that’s a dead ringer for grown and sexy.

Given that this is an evening event, and there are people around, the "birthday suit" is probably not going to be the best idea. Clothing should definitely not be optional. I’m talking directly to you, Terry Park! So I think for grown and sexy sleepwear, wear something that feels reflective of who are you as an individual and also something that you feel confident and comfortable in.   

As guest judges, what kinds of "grown-and-sexy" sleepwear do you suggest for those attending the Hyphen party?  

JT: Since I’m a big fan of vintage and because we’re less likely to see it represented, I’d recommend vintage sleepwear. It’s classy which is sexiness personified without having to show your goodies. Sexiness is not about how much skin you show but about confidence, confidence, confidence! How confidently you carry yourself, even in the most conservative attire, will turn heads in the best way possible. 

It’s also trite to associate sleepwear with risqué and raunchy. Why not defy the social standards and go with something classy? Classy is always in style. Therefore, try floor length pieces like the 1970s sleepwear jumpsuit [see first image] or the other pieces seen in the vintage sewing pattern images? 

You may also don the standard pajama suit set. Wear your pants high-waisted and unbutton the bottom buttons of your PJ top and tie the ends around the pants’ high waist line. You can also choose to tie a belt around the most narrow part of your waist to create a peplum style aesthetic or tuck in your PJ top and belt around your PJ bottom’s waistline. Pair all of these looks with your sexiest and highest heels. My personal favorite is to wear a men’s (size Tall) PJ button-up because it’ll be oversized and long enough for you to pair with over-the-knee stockings and your stilettos [see second image below]. It’s demure on top yet sexy on the bottom without looking like a pajama go-go dancer gone wrong. 

Jenny modeling a vintage PJ button-up


For the fellas or more masculine-presenting folks, the classic pajama suit set and robe (think Hugh Hefner and the vintage men’s sleepwear sewing patterns attached) will never go out of style. It’s a grown and sexy classic. Maroon is also the color of the season. It’s definitely a grown and sexy color too. Don’t be afraid to mix your pajama suit sets as well, such as a white PJ button-up and a black PJ pant (white and black are always a guaranteed solid pairing) or mixing patterns is a bonus such as a classic tartan plaid print on the bottom and polka dots on top. 

The key to pulling off any of the PJ suit sets is...drumroll please...confidence! However, it does not exempt you from being a wrinkled hot mess (unless you’re going for this facetious aesthetic) so please: iron, iron, iron! 

I also don’t mind a long johns one-piece or two-piece set either. Tongue-in-cheek and not taking yourself too seriously are undeniably sexy too, right Terry Park, Mr. Hyphen 2011 Winner? 

[Author's note: I have no idea what Jenny is talking about.]


JR: As a judge, if I saw something that just came off a mannequin from Victoria’s Secret, I’d score it pretty low on originality. I think sex appeal is less about flesh; the name of the game isn’t about to show as much skin as humanly possible. That sex appeal, that confidence is going to exude without having to take off all your clothes.  

I’d give you extra points if you wore something that was really witty or silly. If you want to score high points with me, go away from the obvious. Do something that other people wouldn’t feel comfortable doing. Go for the bold choice. Push your own personal boundaries but in a way that still feels true to who you are. So in terms of menswear, thoughtful presentation is going to be really key. So T-shirts and boxers -- that’s the obvious choice. Certainly if it feels comfortable, then go for it. But if you’re trying to win [the sleepwear walk-off], go for an elevated version. Contrast color piping, collared shirts, button ups. I’m a sucker for matching PJs, like two piece pajama sets, robes, or even a Hugh Hefner look. It can be the smoking jacket, with the leather slippers, and the silk PJ set, maybe a nice paisley print, a nice pocket square.  

Mr. Hyphen 2010 finalist Kilusan Bautista, wearing a silk PJ set with pocket square, and leather sandals. Photo by Andre Nguyen


Do you have any favorite pieces of grown-and-sexy sleepwear available in your shop?

JT:  We carry a few pieces of vintage sleepwear from the 1920s to '60s. These pieces come from a time when it was considered “unlady” like and socially unaccepted to dress in any risqué manner. Nightgowns from this era were floor-length and covered most of a woman’s body. Even under the sheets, the more covered up a lady was, the more she was considered demure or "lady-like." But, of course, this wasn’t always practiced ;)

JR:  We have a vintage kimono. We have a few vintage negligees, which go in the direction of lingerie. For women, men’s button-up shirts are often seen as sleepwear [see below].  

Jenny modeling a vintage men's PJ button-up, at the APA Vagina Monologues in San Francisco


What's your favorite sexy sleepwear outfit to wear and why?
JT:  It depends on my mood. Either my vintage floor length black silk 1950s nightgown, or only wearing my XL and worn out men’s Berkeley t-shirt.

JR:  I have sleepwear to match every mood that I’m in. So if I’m in a really surly, upset mood, then I’m going to wear something comforting, like a pull-over onesie, or a flannel nightgown reminiscent of what my mom would wear. When I want comfort, I’ll just pull on something that feels nostalgic and something comfortable. I have this two piece silk menswear-inspired PJ set that I really, really love. It’s not really form fitting, it’s long sleeved, but because of the material, it just feels a little bit extra "lux." I found this really amazing 1950s-style vintage men’s robe that’s also silk, and I’m just in love with it. It’s floor length on me. It’s midnight blue solid print with small white polka dots. It looks really classy.  

Did you have a favorite sleepwear outfit as a child?
JT:  My pink Ninja Turtles PJ set! I have never been a fan of pink, but my parents tried to subscribe us to gender norms by gifting my twin brother with the blue Ninja Turtles PJ set and, begrudgingly, I was stuck with the pink set. Regardless, it’s the friggin Ninja Turtles! Turtle Power! 


Jenny and Julia are graciously offering a 30% discount off total purchases for those who have RSVPed to the Hyphen PJ Soiree on the Facebook event page. Set up your Personal Shopping Session at and mention, “Terry Park is the epitome of grown & sexy!” (their doing, not mine, I swear) in their Additional Comments section to receive the discount. 


Terry K Park

California-born, Utah-raised, and New York-refined, Terry K. Park is a Provost Dissertation Fellow and PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. He has taught courses in Asian American media, history, theater and 1950s Cold War American culture at UC Davis, Hunter College, and San Quentin State Prison. As a former performance artist, his off-Broadway solo show, 38th Parallels, premiered in New York City with the Pan Asian Repertory Theater.