Tag Archives: pajamas

Pajamas from 1930 Montgomery Ward

One of my chief interests continues to be how women transitioned into pants in the twentieth century. One part of the story is pajamas (pyjamas). Today pajamas were pretty much for sleeping and lounging, and that’s how they started out in the 1910s. But by the middle of the 1920s pajamas were being worn on a very limited basis in public. Someone discovered that pajamas made a very effective beach cover-up, and so pajamas moved from the boudoir to the beach.

The first reference I’ve found to pajamas being worn in public is from 1925. The January 15, 1925 issue of Vogue declared:

“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.”

So 1924 pretty much is the starting point for the wearing of pajamas at the beach. And while Vogue seemed to think not much would come of the trend, Best & Company ran an ad for beach pajamas in the same Vogue issue.

“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.”

I recently found two catalogs from American mass merchandiser Montgomery Ward, one from 1925 and the other from 1930. It’s interesting to see how this one company featured pajamas in the two years. In 1925, there was only one pair of pajamas offered in the catalog, and they were obviously just for sleeping, with the top being pretty much just a short nightgown.

But five years later the picture was quite different. I found six different sets for women, and several more for teens. All were available in multiple color combinations.

The top and pants pictured above are typical with the combination of a solid color and a matching print. The ad reads, “Of mercerized Front Page Cotton broadcloth, whose fine quality is quite in keeping with the excellent tailoring of these pajamas. The printed blouse , finished with collar and pert bow of plain color, tucks slimly into plain colored trousers, whose smooth-fitting yoke, pocket, and cuffs of the print lend contrast.”

Remember, the year is 1930, but one can already see the return of the natural waistline in this set.

There were several sets that also had matching robes. Again we see the emphasis on the waist and a contrast of colors. “What gay flower effects are achieved in these pajamas – designed especially for Ward’s. Of printed Wendy batiste in popular tuck-in style, with front yoke and elastic in waist at back. Cuffs and yoke of trousers contrast in plain white, as do the yoke and tie of the blouse. The lounging coat, of Peter Pan cotton pique, has a flower print just the color reverse of the pajamas, adding to their air of smartness.”

Probably the most interesting set is the one above. Unlike the others, this ensemble was located with the day dresses instead of the lingerie. They refer to it as a “kitchenette ensemble”. The copy even refers to wearing these in public.  “Fashion’s last word in nonchalant Kitchenette Pajama Ensembles – not only for house but flower gardening, boating or beach. The smart world revels in it!”

Also fun to note are the solid color inserts below the knees on the trousers. This is showing that pants legs are beginning to widen, a feature that really does help separate the Twenties from the Thirties. In a more fashion-forward publication, you might already be seeing much wider pant legs in 1930.



Filed under Proper Clothing, Sportswear

Along the Way to Women Wearing Slacks – Beach Pyjamas

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.



Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Photographs

1910s Pajamas, Butterick 1893

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, few women were wearing pants, even when sleeping.  World War I did did bring the idea of wearing pants to women though, partly because wartime work made pants so much more practical than dresses.  But it took World War II with thousands of women entering factories before pants began to really be acceptable wear for women.

And that is why I fell in love with this early pants for women pattern.  Yes, it is for pajamas, but they are very similar to the styles of pants that some women had adopted for factory and farm work during WWI.

The top takes its cue from a popular sports style top – the middy.  It is easy to see how this could have been inspired by the bloomers and middy sports ensemble of high school and college girls of the 1910s.

I got this mainly for historical interest, not really to sew, though I might try my hand at a pair of pajamas from 95 years ago.  Unfortunately the directions are missing, but I think I could muddle my way through.  As my grandmother often reminded me, the directions are for people who don’t know what they are doing.

A bit of icing for this cake – the original sales slip was tucked into the envelope.  This pattern was purchased at J.Lurie in Chicago, on January 15, 1920.


Filed under Sewing

What Makes a Collector Happy

Vintage clothing collectors will tell you that sometimes it’s easier to find something that was rare and pricy when it was new, than it is to find something commonplace.  I guess the logical explanation for that is because people tend to take better care of things they pay more for, and they tend to keep them longer.

I’ve been to dozens of estate sales where the only vintage clothing in the house would be the woman’s wedding dress, a fancy gown or two, expensive, unworn lingerie, and a fur.  What’s hard to find are women’s everyday work clothing, very casual play clothing, and everyday pajamas.  These things got lots of wear, and after a long life ended up in the rag bag.

I keep a very long list of things I need to fill in the gaps of my collection. I keep it with me when I hit a flea market or antique store, but I’ve read over it so many times that I know most of the things on it anyway.  So when I spied this pajama set last Saturday, I knew I was going to be able to make the list a little shorter.

These pjs are from the late 1930s.  I’ve been looking for a set of practical sleepwear from this era for a long time.  This was the type of thing a woman would have taken along to wear on the train as she would want something modest and warm.  It would be a lot easier to climb into that upper berth in these than in that rayon gown!

These cotton knit  pajamas are from famed maker, Vanity Fair. Just look at the details.  Can you imagine putting the elastic on the outside of the waist?  And note how the blue front wraps around to the back and the little gathered sleeve that were so popular in the late 30s.  Lots of thought went into this simple pair of pajamas.


Posted by Em:

What an interesting treasure!

Monday, March 8th 2010 @ 5:57 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

What a fantastic set! All the thought and detail that went into clothing from previous eras is what draws me to vintage clothing. It’s just so much more interesting to me than contemporary clothing 😉

Monday, March 8th 2010 @ 6:28 PM

Posted by MissCherryBubbles:

Oops! That was me commenting above – see, I was so excited by the swell pj set – LOL.

Monday, March 8th 2010 @ 6:29 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’m glad you both find it as interesting as I did. “Swell” in a grest adjective for this one!

Wednesday, March 10th 2010 @ 7:59 AM

1 Comment

Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Vintage Clothing

Travel the World in Vintage PJs

Not actually, of course, but aren’t these nifty travel themed pjs?  I located these on Ebay.  Actually a friend spotted them on an eBay chat board and emailed me to let me know about them.  What’s really disturbing is that I’d have never found them simply browsing or searching eBay.  I used to search with travel as a keyword, but it never turned anything up.

And if you shop eBay you know how long it takes to find anything there any more.  Between the new garbage from Chinese sellers that have flooded the vintage categories, the 1980s stuff that is everywhere, and the downright miscategorized items, it’s getting harder and harder to find great, authentic vintage on eBay.  Pair the search problems with the fact that so many of the best sellers have fled eBay to other sites, and it’s easy to see why my buying there has slowed to a trickle.

That’s really a shame, because there are some wonderful vintage sellers who are still trying to make their living on eBay.  These people deserve to be supported.  Maybe that is why I was disturbed to read of collectibles expert Harry Rinker’s protest and refusal to buy on eBay due to the new ban on checks and money orders.  While his decision and very public announcement will hurt eBay, it hurts the sellers even more.  In a time when final prices realized are down, it is all sellers need to have a public figure announce to the world that he is through with eBay.

So do yourself a favor and do a little eBay browsing.  You may just pick up a real bargain.  And if you spot any travel themed duds, be sure to let me know!

Don’t you just love this print, with the travel logo tags and the line drawings of planes, trains and ships?


Posted by missvintagelove:

I agree. It was so much easier to find great stuff on Ebay a couple years ago. Now I’ll search for a couple hours and then give up, cuz theres nothing! 😦 

Tuesday, November 4th 2008 @ 10:08 AM

Posted by Lucitebox:

I am officially entirely jealous. Those pjs are amazing! 

Tuesday, November 4th 2008 @ 11:00 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Holly, I knew you’d appreciate these! 

Wednesday, November 5th 2008 @ 4:48 PM

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Filed under Novelty Prints, Shopping, Vintage Clothing