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 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 pajamas. They just sip wine instead of soft drinks.
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, the 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 preteens and even teens, who for years tried to fly the coop any chance they got.
Parents also are willing to relax rules because they want to encourage this new nesting behavior, which they think is safer than sending kids out on the town, Ms. D'Agrosa says.
"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.
"And there's something about being awake when everyone else is asleep that lets you share your secrets."
Girls take over planning - or at least are vocal in the process - from about 8 years old on, according to Kristi Thom, the executive editor of American Girl magazine. One of the big trends in the tween age group is to have theme 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 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, Ms. D'Agrosa says.)
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 Ms. Thom, who is 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, she says.
One of the most popular is an at-home spa that's "scaled down to the younger set," Ms. Thom 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," she says. "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," Ms. Thom says. It also eliminates the picky-eater problem.
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 Ms. 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 that Ms. 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," Ms. Moon says. "I'd totally do it again."
Sara Tervo, the 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," Ms. Tervo says. "If it were up to me, I'd pick a graphic sweat pant 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," she says. "Guys like it, too, but girls are drawn to the fun, the eye candy - it makes them smile."
GROWN-UP GIRL STUFF
Ideas for a grown-up girl's slumber party:
Sip wine, receive at-home facials and pedicures, snack on sushi.
Ms. Majewski suggests movie (or TV on DVD) marathons centered on these themes:
Girl Talk: Sex and the City, Kissing Jessica Stein and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Teen Time: Beverly Hills 90210, Pretty in Pink, Clueless, Mean Girls and the one and only season of My So-Called Life.
Sing-Along: Grease, Xanadu, Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, Selena and That Thing You Do
Victoria's Secret Pink and Aerie from American Eagle are loungewear collections that were originally targeted for college students that are finding a wider - and often older - audience.
The line's emphasis is on comfortable fabrics and cozy styles.
Cry a river? Try any and all Meg Ryan movies, Titanic, The Bridges of Madison County, Something's Gotta Give, The Lake House, Somewhere in Time and My Best Friend's Wedding.
Strain into martini glass. Garnish with chocolate truffle.
Be young again, try some slumber favorites:
Chips and salsa, Root beer floats, Pizza, Chocolates, Candy, Popcorn
Ideas for a girl's slumber party:
Play video games, give at-home facials and pedicures, eat at "snack bars" with waffles, ice cream or pasta and a selection of toppings.
Put away the fan magazines and the telephones. Today's tech-savvy girls are more likely to be poring over MySpace pages, according to Anna D'Agrosa, the editor of The Hot Sheet, produced by youth research firm Zandl Group.
Girls will, however, pack their cell phones - not to call home, but to check text messages.
Dylan's Candy Bar Candy Toss flannel pajamas, which are covered in colorful retro sweets.
Lori Majewski, the executive editor at Entertainment Weekly, recommends Aquamarine, Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan, Freaky Friday without Lindsay Lohan, and The Little Mermaid.
Chocolate Pizza Pie
Put 4 cups mini marshmallows, cup butter or margarine and 1 cup chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl.
Microwave mixture on high for 1 minute. Stir in 6 cups chocolate-flavored rice crisp cereal. Press mixture onto large greased pizza pan or two small ones. Set aside.
Melt 1 cup white chocolate chips. Use a fork to drizzle white chocolate over "crust," leaving a small, plain edge. Add maraschino cherries for "pepperoni" and diced gummy candies for "onions" and "green peppers."
(From American Girl: Snooze-a-Palooza)