One reason I know I’ll never be able to write a book is because I’m too easily distracted. For the past two months I’ve been immersed in old magazines and books, looking for references to women’s hiking attire. But I also found myself being attracted to other subjects that kept turning up, especially ones that had to do with women wearing pants.
Most intriguing was the way beach pyjamas burst onto the American fashion scene in 1925. In January, 1925, Vogue speculated on the success of the daring new style:
All the shops are showing the new and brilliant beach pyjamas, so successfully worn at the Lido – so daringly sponsored by one lone Newport leader last summer. Will they – or won’t they – be seen at Palm Beach? Poiret, for one, declares that they will. But customs are very different at the Lido and at Palm Beach, and it is unlikely that their popularity will be as great in this country as in Italy.
To me, the term beach pyjamas conjures up a vision of the wide legged one-piece pyjamas worn in the early 1930s. But Vogue was referring to an entirely different silhouette. The beach pajamas of the 1920s were more like pajamas of today, with narrow legs and consisting of two pieces. The photo above is from a 1925 ad for Best & Co.
The Lido Pajama is the latest thing for beach wear. These have wool jersey trousers and a smart little mandarin top of bright patterned rubberized silk banded in jersey.
By April, Vogue had taken another tone when referring to beach pyjamas. In an article titled “Warm Weather Accessories,” beach pyjamas were mentioned almost matter of factly.
For those who prefer the freedom of the pyjama is this terry cloth beach set.
Through the end of the 1920s, beach pyjamas were just that – a two-piece set of top and trousers. The photo above was taken in 1929.
To get a better picture of what American women were actually wearing, I turned to Good Housekeeping, a magazine that had monthly fashion features but which was not a fashion magazine. It was not until June of 1930 that I found a reference to beach pyjamas in that more mainstream publication. The one pictured was French and one-piece, but the trouser legs were still slim.
But wide legs were on their way. The illustration above is from a 1931 publication from Wright’s Bias Fold Tape. You can see the transition from the older style pajamas in the green suit on the right, to the wider legs of the other two examples.
Of course I don’t know why the legs got so wide so fast, but it can be observed that the wide legged pyjamas of the early 1930s seem to mirror the shape of the floor length evening gowns of the period with their narrow waists and wide, sweeping hem. Those of the 1920s were a more boyish look, in keeping with the “garçonne” look of the mid 1920s.