For over a year now, women have been living in a steady rotation of sweat pants, hoodies and pajamas as we hunker down at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But balancing our jobs, our kids and our homes has been pretty overwhelming. One major cause of stress for women has been our wardrobes. Trying to find pieces that can easily, comfortably and appropriately go from the bedroom to a business Zoom call has not been easy. Which is why last year two Denver-based women decided to launch their own versions of sleepwear that can be styled to go from the bedroom to brunch to happy hour.
Built-in coverage and comfort
For 45-year-old artist Kelly Degnan, the event that sparked the idea for her sleepwear-meets-loungewear line SKiVYS was a tween boy sleepover. The night Degnan’s 11-year old son invited friends for a stay over resulted in one kid being sick and another one having a nightmare.
Degnan, who had to repeatedly go from her bedroom into a room full of preteen boys, felt that her pajamas did not provide the appropriate coverage. “I thought, there must be a better solution,” says Degnan. However, her extensive online search yielded zero results: “I found nothing on the market that was cute, cozy and offered enough bra support to be acceptable in front of a crew of preteen boys or even to open the front door.” At that point, she decided to create a comfortable yet chic sleepwear collection that women could wear all day, minus the bra dilemma.
Then last spring’s COVID-19 lockdown happened. Ironically, it was a sign to Degnan that she was on the right path, and also gave her time to sketch designs, find a local patternmaker and even research manufacturers. Degnan’s pieces include considered details like side slits for ease of movement, pockets and—most important—an interior bra. Creating the bra support layer, however, was challenging: “I bought dozens of bras, swimsuits, sports tops, lingerie, yoga pants and even prom dresses, chopped them up and pieced sections together trying to find the right solution,” she says.
Eventually, Degnan found two fabrics with just the right amount of support to create an elegant but full-coverage interior bra for her sleepwear. She officially launched SKiVYS in October 2020 with four silhouettes: two maxi gowns (one with flattering side ruching and the other an A-line tank style) and two minidresses. All are cut in a comfortable, silky modal/spandex fabric that even helps to thermal regulate body temperature while sleeping. The sporty, but stylish dresses look polished on their own or are perfect as an underpinning with a cardigan thrown over them.
Sustainable and sleek
Coincidentally, 30-year-old Hannah Barry was experiencing the exact sleepwear issues around the same time. A Colorado native and fashion industry veteran who returned to Denver in October 2020 after living in Los Angeles for six years, Barry discovered the impracticality of women’s sleepwear after spending a weekend with family. While crawling around on the floor to play with her toddler niece, Barry’s husband mentioned that her nightwear left her completely exposed. Frustrated by short and sheer sleepwear that was only suitable for the bedroom or flannel-printed pajamas that just weren’t her style, Barry decided to create a collection of sleek, functional and sustainable pieces.
Launched last November and called Sedvana (meaning “habit” or “tradition” in Swedish), Barry’s pieces are wear-tested and crafted for longevity and ease. They’re low-maintenance (machine-washable) and won’t pill or shrink. They’re also environmentally friendly. “Every aspect of this line—the fabric, tags, and packaging—is created from recycled dead-stock material or leftovers from brands,” explains Barry. The repurposed materials allow Sedvana’s carbon footprint to be reduced significantly, and since none of the fabrics are dyed, there’s no water waste.
Barry’s thoughtful, streamlined designs are easy to layer and address a range of women’s needs: Buttons on tops to cover the décolletage; deep pockets in the topper robe (complete with collar and a button-up front) to hold cellphones or headphones, and bottoms with longer inseams to make it easier to sit cross-legged. Even Sedvana’s brand photography aims to be inclusive by using a variety of models (minus a glam squad—no hair, no makeup, no Photoshop) to keep things real.
So what’s next for these women entrepreneurs? Although Degnan is planning new additions to the SKiVYS collection in late spring, what she really is waiting for is a return to in-person events: “I love the idea of introducing women to my line by throwing pajama parties where we can sip champagne and sit around in our SKiVYS together!” Barry, who also wants to offer women more options from silhouettes to colors, says maintaining her quality level and sustainability efforts come first.
However, one thing both designers agree on is how the pandemic has permanently changed the way women think about their sleepwear. “Last year, we had women reach out who had been laid off, got engaged or found out they were pregnant – all while wearing pajamas,” Barry said. “It shows how a wardrobe staple that usually isn’t present for big life moments all of a sudden took center stage.” Indeed, women really did live much of 2020 in their pajamas, good or bad. Going forward, these designers are ensuring that women will have sleepwear that’s stylish, comfortable and functional.
Georgia Alexia Benjou started in the fashion industry as a national buyer and merchandiser for luxury brands in New York City, Milan and Paris. Today, she is based in Colorado as an editorial and advertising stylist. She also co-owns the fashion consulting and events firm, Short Story, which works with emerging and established designers.
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