I’ll Never Forget the Day I Accidentally Wore Pyjamas to School

My first fashion faux pas was the attire of (literal) nightmares. 

Girls Laughing At Girl In Pjs - wore pyjamas to schoolIllustration: Emcie Turineck

Imagine, if you will, a freckled, buck-toothed demoiselle of the groovy 1970s. I yearned for something more than my sister’s hand-me-down jeans and T-shirts. Enter the maxi dress. At first, only a few girls at school trailed their dresses through the playground dirt, but as the trend intensified and more and more friends flounced into school with ultra-long hemlines, jealousy became my newest accessory. Alas, my parents’ budget did not stretch to such frivolity. So imagine my delight when a family friend gave me a thank-you gift for entertaining her toddler after the arrival of twin baby girls. I opened the package, and there, nestled in tissue paper, was a paisley patchwork maxi dress. Le swoon. 

Was it a pattern I would have chosen for myself? 

It was not. 

Was it odd that it came with a little elasticated granny cap? 


Should I have heeded those warning bells when I realized the fabric was flannelette? 


But desire and desperation are an intoxicating ensemble. 

The next morning, I donned my new dress and went down for breakfast. My mother, perhaps tired after her night shift, made no comment. When I arrived at school, however, it was a different story. 

“Are you wearing pyjamas?”


“Is that a nightgown?”


I knew the unasked question on everyone’s lips: 

“Are you nuts?” 


I draped myself in denial. I would get through this nightmare (for which I was all too suitably attired). I managed to brazen my way through the morning, but when the bell rang for recess, Mrs. M., my Grade 5 teacher, beckoned me to her desk. She was not particularly fond of me; I was too chatty for her liking. I suspected she’d summoned me to ask the same questions I’d heard all morning: 

“Are you wearing pyjamas?”


“Is that a nightgown?”

But she did not. Instead, she looked at me intently, pushing her glasses up her nose, then leaned in closer. Slowly, she reached out a hand. Had I misjudged her? Perhaps she had taken pity on me. Perhaps she would comfort me, offering reassurance that I would survive my fashion faux pas.

Her hand drew ever closer. I waited for the reassuring pat on my cheek. Instead, her fingers grasped my sleeve. She rubbed the material between her thumb and forefinger to identify the fabric. Then, with a satisfied look on her face, she dismissed me. 

Meanwhile, in her head she asked, “Are you nuts?”

And in my head I answered, “Clearly.” 

Years later, I met up with some old elementary school classmates. One of them remarked, “Remember the time someone wore pyjamas to school? Who was that?” 

I decided to fess up. I mean, consider how much fashion has changed since the 1970s: Pyjama Day at school is now an actual thing. And with the current emphasis on working from home, our attitude on what to wear where has broadened. Let’s face it, one person’s loungewear is another’s PJs. 

Clearly, 11-year-old me was just ahead of her time. And by that I obviously mean bedtime.

If you liked this funny fashion faux pas, check out this woman’s hilarious colonoscopy story. 

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada