Tag Archives: pyjamas

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.

 

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1920s Rayon Pyjamas

One of the great finds I made last week was this pair of 1920s pyjamas. The seller who had them is a regular at the antiques market, and she specializes in things other than clothing, but she usually has a rack of vintage lingerie as a sort of afterthought.  They were mislabeled as nylon tricot, which was a bit puzzling.

Anyway, I was happy to find them.  Pyjamas from the 1920s are hard to find and I am glad to add these to my collection.  Pyjamas are one of those garments that started to bridge the gap between what was acceptable to be worn in the home, and what was okay for public wearing. These are technically lingerie, but many women in the late 1920s followed the avant garde in Italy and started wearing these at the beach over their swimwear.

There are several things that identify these as being from the 20s.  Scallops were a common design feature of the time.  They are seen on outerwear as well as lingerie.  Also, the edges were finished with a picot stitch machine. This newish invention was very popular in the twenties, as it worked so well with the flowy fabrics of the day.

The legs of the pants are straight.  After about 1930 pant legs got wide and flowing, much like the bellbottoms of the late 60s and 1970s.

While examining the pants I got a little surprise. Near the hems were two little slits with finished edges.  I’m thinking there were originally ties that gathered in the legs slightly.

Here I have inserted a piece of ribbon through the slits to make a bow which puts a little pleat in the leg.

I have no way of knowing what the original ties were made of, but I do happen to have some 1920s ribbon in pink and blue.

The top of the little pocket on the blouse and the neckline are finished with a gauze fabric that matches the blue rayon.  It is possible the ties were made from this fabric.

The blouse originally had a belt, as evidenced by the presence of belt loops.  These are located on the side seams, slightly below the natural waistline, as one would expect in a 1920s garment.

There is a line of stitching in the back of the neck.  Could this mean there was once a label?  I’m not sure, as it seems to be an odd thing for a 1920s garment, but what would be another explanation?

There are two different types of stitches in the pants.  I’m pretty sure the pyjamas were commercially made due to the picot edging and the tiny French seams.  But I also think the pants were shortened at the waist. Note the vertical side seam, and the double stitched casing for elastic at the waist. The thread of the casing stitches does not quite match.

In the 1920s most women were not wearing any sort of legged garments, so pyjamas were a big step in the move toward women wearing pants, even if they were seen mainly in the boudoir.

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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.

 

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