The great pyjama rebellion

I liked to push boundaries at the Catholic girls’ high school I went to.

I argued about religion, politics, social justice, freedom of speech – pretty much anything that I could question, I did.

But I didn’t expect that a simple idea to dress in pyjamas on a free dress day would  end up being one of the most subversive acts in my high school life. 

black and white image of a building
Not my actual high school but you get the idea

In Australia almost all high school students wear a uniform

Some schools are more strict about how the uniform should be worn than others but uniforms are seen as an important leveller in the school ground.

That’s why everyone gets excited for the few days of the year announced as free dress (or mufti) days.

Often these free dress days are an opportunity to raise money for a charity.

They’re also a chance to express yourself through fashion… or not.

And then came the pyjama rebellion

When I was in Year 11 (about 16 years old) someone in my group of friends (maybe me, maybe not me…but quite possibly me) came up with the idea that we should all wear our pyjamas or nighties and dressing gowns to school on our next free dress day.

We thought it would be fun.

Our parents didn’t have a problem with it – they let us out of the house in our PJs.

But when we turned up at school, the way the teachers reacted…you would have thought we’d turned up in Victoria’s Secret lingerie.

Image of a grumpy old man
This is pretty much the look we got from the Deputy Principal on the day.

Rebel girls with toothbrushes

The school principal, deputy, heads of school, teachers – they were ANGRY.

They told us our action was disgraceful. They acted like had transgressed some sacred rule, that we had trampled all over a boundary that should never, ever be crossed.

To this day, decades later, I still can’t work out what upset the school so much about us turning up in pyjamas.

It’s not like we were running around in skimpy shorts with our bums hanging out. Our bodies were covered. Some of us wore dressing gowns, others accessorised with toothbrushes. 

We wore slippers!

How can anyone be subversive in slippers?

Image of girls wearing pyjamas at high school
Yep, that's me second from left in pale blue pj's & bad perm

Fight for your right to wear pyjamas

I guess the thing I take from this is that when you challenge expectations, when you dare to do something a little different – even if that something is quite silly – you can have a huge impact.

It doesn’t always take a grand gesture to make people sit up and notice.

Sometimes it’s the small things. The decision you take to do something that expresses who you want to be no matter what others think.

Be silly.

Be rebellious.

Wear pyjamas.

While we're on the subject...support the Pyjama Foundation

The Pyjama Foundation is an Australian charity that supports literacy for children living in foster care. Across Australia, there are hundreds of “Pyjama Angels” volunteering their time to read to children in foster homes and creating a life-long love of books and reading.

They do great work on a shoestring budget and need all the help you can give.

Donate to the Pyjama Foundation.

Image attributions

Black and white photo of buildings: Photo by Polina Sirotina

Bearded male:  photo by Pexels

2 thoughts on “The great pyjama rebellion”

  1. Nice write up and great org to contribute to! I don’t know why your school had an issue with pjs either…. Then again, Catholicism has some weird beliefs I don’t understand so maybe it does make sense! But don’t pay too much attention to my thoughts, I regularly walk my dog in my pjs.

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