Tag Archives: Beach Pyjama

1933 – 1935 Beach Ensemble

One of my biggest splurges of the past year was this four-piece beach or sailing ensemble. After years of building a collection, I’ve learned that it’s better to wait for really special things to come to the market instead of buying a lot of miscellaneous bargains. This set is a good example of what I’m saying. I spent more on it than I normally spend on acquisitions, but it was such a great addition to my collection that I just could not resist.

Here are the first two pieces – a playsuit/bathing suit, and a rope belt. The neck with those fabulous nautical flags ties with the same rope as the belt. The belt buckle is plastic, and it is a small miracle that the thing has survived eighty something years.

I was hoping the flags spelled out a secret message, but I could not find a corresponding message for each flag.

This is also the case for the buckle, or at least I could not find it in any of the charts. Maybe I’m asking too much of an already fabulous article.

The pants could be added for a more covered up look. You might have expected the pants to be more like traditional sailor pants with the front flap and two rows of buttons, but the designer was too creative for that.

Instead she gave us one row of buttons on the side front, with a diagonal line to the crotch. You can’t tell from my photo but the opening actually drapes and overlaps an interior piece, and there are straps (barely visible on waistband) that wrap and button. It’s such a great design.

The last piece is a little red jacket, which by itself would look rather plain. But with the flags draped over the neckline and the belt buckle directly below, no other decoration was needed.

Unfortunately, the bathing suit is not in perfect condition. It obviously got much more wear than the other pieces, and there is an area of damage right on the front. When I received this the holes looked much worse, but I did a temporary repair in which I stitched the visible fabric to the lining.  In an interesting twist, I would never have been able to afford this had it been in perfect condition. The trick is to balance fabulousness and rarity with condition. The fact that there were four coordinating pieces really adds to the scarcity. I often see bits and pieces of former sets that have lost their mates. It’s sad, actually.

Can you tell this is a knit? It’s a very finely knit rayon and looks quite similar to the good nylons used by better lingerie companies starting in the late 1940s. It is sometimes hard to tell the difference between knit rayon and the later nylon, and I’ve seen 1930s knit rayon mislabeled by sellers as nylon.

Dating was made easy due to the single label present. This is the label used when products were made in accordance with the National Recovery Act, or NRA. The act was instituted in 1933, but was found to be unconstitutional in 1935, so there is only a three year window in which items with the NRA eagle symbol could have been made.





Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

From My Collection: Beach Pyjamas

After writing about beach pyjamas (or pajamas) yesterday, I thought I should show the examples I have in my collection.  The pair above is from the mid to late 1920s, as you can see from the narrow legs.  These are made from a very light and sheer woven wool, and I can’t help but wonder if there was originally a matching top or jacket.  I love how the deep waist yoke is a nod to the dropped waists of the era.

The fabric is really quite wonderful.  Believe it or not, these came from the Goodwill clearance bins several years ago.  I really could not believe my luck, as these are very hard to come by.

These crazy quilt pyjamas from the early 1930s were also a lucky Goodwill find.  At first the design looks to be completely random, but look closely and you’ll see that the maker of this garment carefully engineered the bodice, with the stripe effect mirrored in the hems of the legs.

All of the pieces are silk fabrics.  I doubt that this was ever worn, as the condition of the piece is so good, and there is no sign of neither shrinkage nor dye failure.

This last pyjama is also from the 1930s and was an ebay purchase of about ten years ago.  These have become so popular that I’d probably not be able to buy it today as the prices are much higher than what I paid.  It’s is really great, with the red and blue stripes being applied to the heavy muslin pyjama.  It was a much more practical garment for the beach than the rayon patchwork one was.

Yesterday the question came up about when to use pajama, and when to use pyjama.  Susan pointed out that the US spelling is pajama.  I used both versions of the word in yesterday’s post, mirroring the usage in the primary sources I was using.  Today, we use pajama for our sleeping garments, but pyjama is pretty much standard usage when referring to 1930s beach pyjamas.

Correction:  I originally wrote that the patchwork piece is made from rayon, but I double-checked, and the pieces are actually silk.


Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

Patchwork Beach Pyjama

I found this pyjama at my local Goodwill Center.  When I spotted it in the bin I thought it was a 1920s/30s quilt, and then I noticed the legs.  So thought number 2 was that some crafty young thing in the 1970s took an old quilt and made a jumpsuit from it.  But then the bodice appeared from the jumble of clothes, and I saw that the maker had engineered the bodice pieces into a chevron design, and then realized this was an intentional design.

A close look at the construction revealed that this piece is from the late 1920s or the 1930s.  All the patchwork pieces are silk, and they are hand-sewn together, and also anchored to a muslin underlining.  The pyjama closes in the front, with snaps up the center front.

The condition is amazing.  I thought at first that it had never been worn, but there are light stains on the muslin under the arms, so some brave girl did wear it, at least once.  How this survived the frenzy of the Goodwill bins is a miracle, as some of the silk is beginning to deteriorate.  Unfortunately, this was stored folded, and where the creases were, the silk fibers have begun to crack.  But the good news is that this is so thick that only the places on the inner most part of the folds were damaged.  The rest of it curved around itself and that prevented most of the fibers from creasing.  In a single ply silk garment, like a chemise, you often find that it literally falls apart at the folds when moved after years in storage.

So how does a collector prevent this type of damage?  In a perfect situation, the garment would be stored flat, with acid-free tissue cushioning the interior of it.  But that is usually not possible.   Since there is a strong understructure, this pyjama could be stored hanging on a padded hanger.  If it had to be stored folded, the best thing to do is to pad all the fold with acid-free paper, knowing that in a few months the paper will need to be changed and the folds rearranged.

To learn more about the trials of textile storage, get a copy of Preserving Textiles by Harold F. Mailand and Dorothy Stiles Alig.


Posted by Stacey:

What a great find! It’s so neat that you found a piece dating from the 20s. You certainly have a knack for finding treasures at your local thrift store!

Monday, August 16th 2010 @ 6:32 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

That’s amazing. Doesn’t it make you wonder what else was stored with that piece? And where the rest of it went? 😕

Tuesday, August 17th 2010 @ 4:04 AM

Posted by Sarsaparilla:

Oh my! What an incredible find! I can’t stop looking at it. Perfect for displaying in a vintage bedroom or sunny porch. Lucky you! Like Stacey said – you’ve certainly got a knack for finding treasures.

Tuesday, August 17th 2010 @ 5:54 AM

Posted by Gina Americana:

Lucky you!

Tuesday, August 17th 2010 @ 12:33 PM

Posted by Joules:

Incredible that it wasn’t pulled apart in the jumble of the bins! I love the wild color mix, and wonderful workmanship. Great post, LIzzie!

Tuesday, August 17th 2010 @ 7:00 PM

Posted by Sarah:

Extraordinary find! I love how you describe your thought processes as you gradually pull it out of the bin and it reveals itself. How exciting!

Tuesday, August 17th 2010 @ 10:55 PM

Posted by samsara:

Wow! I love this, that chevron design is lovely indeed. I also really enjoyed your story of finding it, Ms. Lizzie!

Thursday, August 19th 2010 @ 8:08 AM

Posted by Couture Allure:

Your thrift bins reveal the most amazing finds! This is incredible. Must show it to Pam.

Friday, August 20th 2010 @ 3:59 AM

Posted by Glamoursrf:

Lizzie, this is gorgeous. I love the patchwork effect along with the chevron striping. Congrats on finding such a treasure.

Friday, August 20th 2010 @ 7:17 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’m glad you all loved this unusual piece! Yes, Jody, it is the place of a treasure hunter’s dreams!

Friday, August 20th 2010 @ 9:09 AM

1 Comment

Filed under Shopping, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing