Even though it was not acceptable for a woman to wear trousers, except for practising sports, in 1922 Paul Poiret showed pyjamas as ‘original attire for the hours of deshabille’. (1)
In the early 1920’s, journalists redefined indoor pants as evening pajamas and interpreted them as feminine and even feminist. Martine Rénier’s editorial “What feminine fashion has taken from masculine fashion?” contended that women only adopted attractive elements of trousers and shirts and wore them only in-doors. Making ladies trousers of brightly colored silks and wearing them with tunics or blouses lamé or muslin represented a feminization of masculine-looking garments. Rénier also praised pants as practical, comfortable, and loose enough to allow free movement. (2)
By 1924, when Vogue announced ‘Pyjamas become matters of vivid importance’, it was time to put the cards on the table. ‘The pyjama is not an amusing novelty; it has become an essential part of the smart woman’s wardrobe’. Vogue pinpointed three variations: sleeping pyjamas – ‘a lovely boyish thing of washing silk or crepe de Chine’; lounging pyjamas – ‘when informal entertainments and masquerades are the order of the day’; and beach pyjamas – ‘usually of gay printed cretonne, often worn with bright rubber wristlets to keep the sleeves in place when one loiters on the sand’. (1)
Sleeping pyjamas and lounging pyjamas were quite similar. These were very luxurious garments made of delicate and flowing fabrics such as silk, chiffon, satin or rayon. They feature loose, ankle-length pants that hung straight at the bottom or were drawn tight around the ankle by a ribbon or lacing. The waistlines of the pants had drawstrings. Tops were hip-length jackets with varying sleeve lengths.
Women’s pyjamas sometimes were quite stylized, even whimsical. For instance, on occasion they were designed in silk in an Oriental fashion that featured loose, wide sleeves like kimonos. They were printed colourfully with renderings of Japanese and Chinese objects, such as paper lanterns, geisha houses, and chopsticks.
According to period fashion illustrations, beach pyjamas were similar in appearance to sleeping/lounge pyjamas. Soon they became a double-duty garment for the relaxed resort lifestyle, one that navigated easily from beach to cocktail party. I will talk about these garments in detail in the future, where I’ll dedicate a post to 1920’s Beachwear.
(1) Vogue Fashion – Linda Watson, 2008
(2) Dressing Modern Frenchwomen: Marketing Haute Couture, 1919-1939 – Mary Lynn Stewart, 2008