Girls of all ages have delightful memories of sleep-overs.
By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL
NEW YORK -- Who goes to sleepover parties these days? Girls of all ages -- kids, tweens, teens, big sisters and even mothers.
Slumber parties seem to be cooler than ever.
Girls have found a few new things to do: video games have replaced Ouija boards and the girls troll MySpace -- sometimes leaving bogus instant messages -- instead of making prank calls.
As for the now grown-up women who struggled to keep their eyes open to watch the early days of "Saturday Night Live," they still like getting together with girlfriends in the relaxed environment that comes naturally with flannel PJs. They just sip wine instead of soda.
The generations-wide interest in sleepovers shouldn't be a surprise. There are lots of good reasons to stay home these days: a variety of cool clothes, gadgets and snacks; a break from overscheduled lives; parents think kids are safer at home than anywhere else; and adults burn out on a nightlife scene that started when they stopped going to sleepovers the first time around.
The boom in home entertainment has helped things along, says Anna D'Agrosa, editor of The Hot Sheet, a product of Zandl Group, a youth research firm. One factoid -- the number of girls who prefer video games to all other types of games has risen from 7 percent to 23 percent over the past 10 years.
"Home theaters, surround sound, premium cable, TiVo, VOD and video games along with stocked cupboards of snacks make home the most desirable place to hang out," she says of tweens and even teens who for years tried to fly the coop any chance they got.
Parents also are willing to relax rules since they want to encourage this new nesting behavior, which they think is safer than sending kids out on the town, D'Agrosa observes. "Coed supervised sleepovers, including post-prom night, are examples of parents giving teens some freedom while keeping a close watch," she says.
Meanwhile, the kids feel they're being rebellious.
"There's something that's sneaky yet wholesome about a slumber party," says Susan Schulz, CosmoGirl's editor in chief. "It's a rebelliousness that's safe and contained. It's juvenile-prankster silly, but it still gives that thrill."
She adds: "And there's something about being awake when everyone else is asleep that lets you share your secrets."
Paige Andrews of Ridgefield, Conn., celebrated her 10th birthday with a sleepover. "I liked the idea of having to watch a movie, stay up late talking with my friends and just having fun."
They watched "Aquamarine" (a movie with budding teen queens Emma Roberts and JoJo about finding a mermaid in a pool), had a water fight -- one girl fell into the pool with a towel on, and yakked for hours.
Girls take over planning -- or at least are vocal in the process -- from about 8 years old on, according to Kristi Thom, executive editor of American Girl magazine. One of the big trends in the tween age group is to have themed parties, such as a spa night, movie night or even a monkey night, she says.
Girls younger than 8 usually have only two or three friends over and the night itself is orchestrated mostly by the parents, and teenage girls also tend to have a smaller group.
(Boys also have friends over to spend the night but they don't call them "slumber parties," and there's likely to be little, if any, gossiping, notes D'Agrosa.)
No matter the age, though, the appeal of sleepovers is the same -- even for adults. It's an opportunity to stay up late and spend a seemingly unlimited time with friends.
"If you know it's going to be the whole night, it takes the pressure off having to look at your watch or not being able to start a movie at 9:30," says Thom, who happens to be headed on a "girls weekend" with college friends. "The casualness of being in pajamas and being able to relax instead of being so scheduled is universally appealing. Although, I'd say one of the secrets of a successful party is to have enough planned."
By doing one of those aforementioned theme parties, there's already a basic framework in place, Thom says.
One of the most popular is an at-home spa that's "scaled down to the younger set," she says. "Playing with hair and doing hair have been slumber party staples forever, but a facial or pedicure, something with a chi-chi spa theme, has a lot of interest. ... A 10-year-old doesn't need an intense facial but she wants the pampering, the special experience. It's another way to play with makeup without doing little-girl dress-up makeup. The girls will feel a little grown up and it's not something they do on the average day."
Another crowd-pleaser is the "snack bar," maybe featuring waffles, ice cream sundaes, pretzels or pasta. Aside from the main component, there can be a variety of toppings so the girls can customize their snack. "Girls like to be able to put their stamp on it," Thom notes.
And it eliminates the picky-eater problem.
But some teens' tastes are beyond what the basement can offer. That's were hotels fit in.
Trend analyst D'Agrosa points to HyaTTeen Suite 16 parties, offered at some Hyatt Hotels. The package includes the room, concierge service, in-room catered dining, video-on-demand movies and board games. "As birthday parties become increasingly large affairs, expect other hotels to follow suit," D'Agrosa says.
But while that might be the bridge for teenagers looking to graduate to bona fide nightlife, some adult women are tired of bars and clubs. They're looking for an excuse to curl up in a cocoon.
And wouldn't it be more fun if they could do it with their girlfriends?
Katie Moon says the women who came to a bachelorette slumber party she threw were so appreciative that they didn't have to drive anywhere once they arrived for 24 hours of fun, food and friends.
"No one had to do anything, and it didn't require that much from me either. It was all pre-organized so I was able to enjoy it, too. ... Everyone was in their bathing suit most of the day," reports Moon, 30. There was no pressure at all to put on makeup or get dressed up.
When her guests first arrived at the four-bedroom house Moon, a real estate broker, rented for the weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., they were sent off to different rooms for manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. Then they lounged around the pool, nibbling on miniature sandwiches and salads.
In the evening, there was sushi, a wine tasting and then a lingerie shower.
"Everyone was really pleased and pleasantly surprised at what was happening," Moon says. "I'd totally do it again."
Sara Tervo, spokeswoman for Victoria's Secret Pink collection, says the loungewear line was designed mostly for college students, but it's found an older audience, too. Women in their 20s, 30s and beyond like having sleepwear that they can also wear to buy their morning coffee, she says.
"In the college atmosphere, there's a communal lifestyle. You're in an environment where you want to be comfortable and somewhat covered. It's the same thing for a slumber party. You wouldn't want to be in a little slip nightie," Tervo says. "If it were up to me, I'd pick a graphic sweatpant and hoodie with a thermal henley underneath for a sleepover. I like my shoulders to be covered when I'm sleeping."
"Pink is stuff to hang out with other girls. Guys like it, too, but girls are drawn to the fun, the eye candy -- it makes them smile."
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