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Pyjamas – A More Interesting History than you’d Dream of


Pyjamas, also known as pajamas or PJs, have a long and fascinating history in the world of fashion. From their humble origins as sleepwear to their current status as stylish loungewear, pyjamas have undergone numerous transformations over the years. In this article, we will explore the evolution of pyjamas through history, from their ancient origins to their modern-day designs.

The history of pyjamas dates back thousands of years to ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These early forms of sleepwear were typically made from linen or cotton and were loose-fitting garments that covered the entire body. They were designed to be comfortable and breathable in warm climates, and were often adorned with decorative embroidery or patterns.

During the Middle Ages, sleepwear began to evolve into more practical designs. European monks wore long, loose-fitting robes as they slept, which provided warmth and comfort in the cold, drafty monasteries. These early sleepwear designs eventually gave rise to the nightshirt, a long garment made of cotton or linen that buttoned up the front and covered the entire body.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that pyjamas as we know them today began to emerge. The word “pyjama” is derived from the Hindi word “pajama,” which referred to loose-fitting trousers that were worn by men in India. British colonisers in India adopted this style of clothing and brought it back to Europe, where it eventually became popular as sleepwear.

PJ inspired daywear

The first pyjamas were made of silk and were typically worn by men. They consisted of a loose-fitting shirt and trousers that were tied at the waist with a drawstring. The design was practical for sleeping and lounging, and it quickly caught on as a fashionable alternative to traditional nightshirts.

In the early 20th century, pyjamas became increasingly popular among women. Designers began to experiment with different fabrics and styles, creating pyjamas that were both comfortable and stylish. The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of the “flapper” style, which featured loose-fitting silk pyjamas with elaborate embroidery and beading. These glamorous pyjamas were often worn as evening wear, paired with high heels and accessories.

1920’s PJ / nightwear inspired – American Museum exhibition

During World War II, pyjamas took on a more practical and utilitarian design. With fabric rationing in effect, pyjamas were made from simple cotton or wool blends and were designed for warmth and comfort rather than style. Women’s pyjamas often featured playful patterns and bright colours, while men’s pyjamas were more understated in design.

In the post-war era, pyjamas continued to evolve with the times. The 1950s saw the rise of the “housecoat,” a type of dressing gown that was worn over pyjamas and served as a stylish alternative to traditional robes. In the 1960s and 1970s, pyjamas became more casual and comfortable, with loose-fitting designs and soft fabrics such as flannel and jersey.

In recent years, pyjamas have become even more versatile in their designs. With the rise of athleisure wear and the increasing popularity of loungewear, pyjamas have become a fashionable choice for both sleepwear and everyday wear. Modern pyjamas are often made from comfortable, stretchy fabrics such as cotton and modal, and feature a range of styles and designs, from classic button-up sets to trendy jumpsuits and rompers.

Overall, the evolution of pyjamas through history reflects the changing attitudes towards sleepwear and fashion. From their practical origins as loose-fitting robes to their current status as stylish loungewear, pyjamas have undergone numerous transformations over the years. So, next time you get into your bed frame and mattress you’ll know more about your pyjamas.

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