The History of Pajamas
Posted By: Selina Lau Published: 21/06/2019 Times Read: 1972 Comments: 0
The History of Pajamas
Pajamas are clothes worn by men, women, and children for sleeping or lounging. Pajamas can be one-piece or two-piece garments, but are always made up of loose and lengthy loose pants. Although pajamas have traditionally been regarded as pragmatic clothing, they often reflect the contours of fashion and the image of an exotic “other” in the public imagination.
The word pajamas comes from the Hindi word "pae jama" or "pai jama", meaning leg clothing, which can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire. Alternative spellings include: paejamas, paijamas, pyjamas, and abbreviation pj’s. Traditionally, pajamas are loose drawers or trousers with drawstrings or cords at the waist, worn by men and women in India, Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pajamas can be tight on the entire leg, or they can be very full at the waist and knees, and tight at the calves and ankles. They usually wear robes with a drawstring and extend to the knees. Although the word is Hindi, there are similar costumes throughout the Middle East and the Far East.
While in these countries, Pajamas were also adopted by Europeans, who brought back to home countries as exotic loungewear. Though pajamas wearing was not widely spread until the twentieth century, they were possessed as a symbol of status and secular knowledge as early as the seventeenth century.
Pajamas As Sleepwear
It was widely believed that pajamas were introduced into the Western world around 1870, when British colonists used them as a substitute for traditional nightshirts and continued to practice as they returned. By the end of the 19th century, the term "pajama" was used to describe a two-piece garment: pajamas (trousers) and jacket tops.
By 1902, male pajamas were widely acquirable and there were fabrics such as flannel and Madras, and most of the exotic flavors have been lost. Pajamas were deemed modern and proper for an active lifestyle. In 1902 Sears, a copy of the advertisement in the Roebuck catalogue indicated that they were: "Just the stuff for traveling, because their appearance recognizes greater freedom than the usual kind of nightshirts" (p. 966).
Popular in the 1920s, often hermaphroditic fashions helped popularize women wearing pajamas. Although men's pajamas were always made of cotton, silk or flannel, women's examples were usually made of printed silk or rayon, decorated with ribbons and lace. Early examples have a raised or natural waist, legs gathered in the form of "Turkish pants", and later examples include straight legs and sagging waists, reflecting the contours of the 1920s. Pajamas continued to reflect fashion ideals throughout the century. The 1934 movie It Happened One Night featuring Claudette Colbert wearing men's pajamas helped promote men's style pajamas for women.
By 1940s, women wore "short" pajamas and later developed into "babydoll" pajamas. Typical babydoll pajamas include a sleeveless blouse top with frill at the hem and balloon panty pleated at the leg openings. By mid-1960s, babydoll pajamas became standard summer nightdress for millions of ladies.
Unisex fashions being popular in the 1970s, pajamas were often inspired by menswear. Customized satin pajamas became popular since 1920s, but had been reintroduced during this period. During this decade, ethnic styles based on traditional costumes from Vietnam and China were used as anti-fashion and statements about the wearer's political views. This trend of unisex and ethnicity still exists today, especially in women's fashion, where the differences between clothing and undressing become blurred.
Pajamas As Fashion
Long ago, such blurring of gender boundaries had began. Since the 18th century, women had begun to try adapting pajama pants, but this is related to masquerade costumes, actresses and prostitution, not to respected women. In 1851, the American feminist Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894) worn large "Turkish trousers" with knee-length skirts as a substitute for fashion. The response to her appearance was absolutely negative, and the "Bloomer Clothing" was not recognized.
In the early 20th century, pajamas began to be adapted into fashion dressing, when pioneering designers promoted them as elegant alternatives to tea dresses. French seamstress Paul Poiret started day-and-night pajamas in 1911, and his influence played an important role in their final acceptance.
Beach pajamas, which was promoted by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in the early 1920s, were worn to pass by the sea and walk on boardwalks. A few adventurers wore the first beach pajamas, but at the end of the dawn they had become an acceptable evening gown for general female. Intended to be informally dine at home as a new type of clothing, evening pajams were widely accepted during the decade. Evening pajamas had been popular throughout the 1930s and had reappeared in the form of "palazzo pajamas" in the 1960s.
Roman designer Irene Galitzine launched Palazzo pajamas as elegant casual evening dresses in 1960. Fashion were greatly influenced by Palazzo pajamas in the 1960s and continued into the 1970s. Palazzo pajamas were with features of wide legs and were usually made of soft silk with beading and tassels. In the 1970s, evening dresses and casual wear merged as evening styles became more and more simple and unstructured. Halston was especially known for his satin and crepe trousers, which he called "pajama dressings." In view of this, popular magazines recommended readers to buy evening gowns in the underwear department.
This growing informality of clothing makes evening pajamas a major part of modern fashion, and the influence of Asian designers such as Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani further blurs the line between clothing and undressing. This trend is continuing into the 21st century.