A Column by : Mary Ellen Collins
It would never occur to me to walk around downtown wearing pajamas or a nightgown, even if many of the people around me were dressed that way. However, I would never miss the Sunrise Sale, during which shoppers in nightwear are rewarded with extra discounts. This year I experienced the morning from the comfort of my navy blue shorts and red polo shirt.
I am fascinated by the people who dress down for this annual July event. But I just don’t have it in me, nor do I think I ever could develop the spirit of abandon it must take to put your nighttime self out there for all to see.
This year I limited my browsing to the 500 and 600 blocks of Central Ave., deciding to skip Beach Drive (and the very upsetting issue of red tide and the dead fish). Starting at Florida CraftArt, I was so delighted to exchange post-Covid, real hugs with local artist, Charlie Parker and his wife, Nancy. I bought one of his gorgeous plates in my favorite color blue, with the spiral design I love; along with a small vase for a niece who’s in the process adding art to her brand new condo.
As I headed up the street, I was also on a mission for Lisa, a friend in NH who asked for photographic proof that people actually adhere to the informal dress code. Not wanting to get into any kind of legal trouble, I surreptitiously snapped a few pics of people – from the back, at a distance. In the past, I’ve seen everything from peignoirs to Ward Cleaver-type tailored bathrobes and leather slippers, but most of this year’s style choices were more low-key. I saw lots of baggy, mid-calf pajama pants with cute designs; some teeny tops paired with even teenier shorts; and more flannel than you would think you’d find in Florida. The exception was a beautiful pair of lavender silk pajamas on an equally lovely elderly woman. And then there was the pack of ladies who wore matching turquoise nightgowns and had attached fuchsia pom poms to their flip flops and slippers. They reminded me of those groups of women who wore fancy red hats when they went out together. (I didn’t do that either). They were very happy to pose – and I wasn’t the only one snapping a pic.
I hit ZaZoo’d, where I stocked up on cool greeting cards for $1 piece; ran into a couple of shopping bag-laden friends who were dressed for bed; and browsed the 600 block boutiques, where I admit I felt out of place in the festive, pajama party atmosphere. I wrapped up the morning by heading to my favorite breakfast spot, Central Coffee, where the Sunrise Sale dress code was nowhere in sight until eight young women dressed in lycra leisurewear trooped in.
While enjoying my bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel, I took time to reflect on why this wacky day is one of my favorite local traditions. In addition to feeding my fondness for bargain shopping, it showcases St. Pete at its best –casual, friendly, local business-focused – and people can wear whatever they darn well please. What’s not to love?