Have you ever wondered when people started wearing pajamas?
Or where the term “pajamas” originated from?
As true pajama enthusiasts, we have made it our mission to find out everything there is to know about the history of PJs.
Where they came from, who invented them, who wore them first, and so much more.
Plus, take a sneaky peak at what the future holds for the humble pajama in a world of emerging fashion trends, including sleepwear and loungewear.
Where did pajamas originate from?
You may find it hard to believe, but pajamas can be traced all the way back to the Ottoman Empire when the Hindi word “pae jama,” which translates to “garment for the legs,” was used to refer to wide-fit trousers that fastened at the waist with a tie string.
It wasn’t long before British colonials started to covert this exotic style, pairing these wide pants with long tunics and bringing the look back to the Western world.
Although there is no exact date when the term “pajama” was first coined, it was thought that it was around this time that the phrase became commonplace as more people discovered this bold, new look.
Pajamas in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, pajamas were very different from the styles we see today, with shapeless styles that only featured the most basic trimmings.
Typically, these were made by the wives and daughters of the family and were simple to design and quick to create.
During this period in time, it was only the very wealthy and royalty that wore pajamas with more embellishments, and their designs were often inspired by Indian and Asian costumes.
The invention of the sewing machine
Up until the 18th century, pajamas were very basic and looked pretty much like a long nightgown or nightshirt. However, this all changed when the sewing machine was invented.
A complete revolution for the world of pajama design, the sewing machine lead to people buying ready-made pajamas rather than making their own.
Suddenly, there were a lot more designs to choose from, with styles changing from one decade to the next depending on what was deemed socially and culturally acceptable at the time.
As mentioned earlier, it was men who first started to wear more stylish pajama designs, with women not getting their own selection of more embellished sleepwear until much later.
In the late 1800s, men’s nightshirts started to become available in a wider variety of fabrics, such as flannel, cotton, linen, and even colored silk. Nightgowns that fell all the way to the
floor also became popular at this time, but these fell out of fashion by the first quarter of the 20th century.
By the mid-20th century, nightshirts and nightgowns were all but forgotten, and the pajamas that we know and love today started to emerge.
One of the main reasons why women wore very basic nightshirts, while men were enjoying much more stylish designs, was because of the patriarchal nature of Western society at the time. Most women were afraid to speak out or voice their opinions which meant that they simply put up with the styles of sleepwear that were provided to them.
However, over the course of the 20th century and the liberation of female sexuality, women started to wear more modern styles of pajamas. And, by the 1970s, more and more women were seen wearing silk shirts and pant sets that were inspired by Indian and Chinese culture.
It is thought the iconic designer Coco Chanel was the first person to create a line of pajamas for women, and she was also the first designer to encourage women to wear pajamas outside of the house.
Marketed as “beach pajamas,” these were highly controversial when first released to the general public but fast became popular in high society.
In fact, one French resort was nicknamed “pajamapolis” as so many of its guests were seen wearing these stylish two pieces.
Onesies are a relatively new craze in the world of pajamas, with this fun and fashionable trend first starting in Japan.
Originating from the word “Kigurumi,” a Japanese term for a costumed character, this started the trend of turning pajamas into cosplay costumes that became popular with adults and children alike.
As people started to post pictures of themselves on social media dressed up in various animal-themed onesies, this started a new trend where families started to wear themed pajamas for the holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Today, more and more families are embracing matching pajamas for the holidays and even throwing themed pajama parties!
What did people wear before pajamas?
Before the concept of pajamas came about, most American and European men wore nightshirts to bed, as they had done for many centuries before.
Many people also slept in their undergarments rather than in an outfit that was specifically designed for sleeping in.
Although it may be hard to believe, men began wearing and stylizing pajamas long before women did, with men’s pajamas featuring embellishments such as lace and trimmings, while women’s pajamas were much plainer.
The Future of Pajamas
So, what is the future of the humble pajama?
While it is clear that traditional-style pajamas are here to stay, there is no doubt that sleepwear and loungewear will continue to increase in popularity, with people wanting stylish and comfortable items that they can wear inside and outside the house.
We also expect to see new styles of pajamas emerging, with more bespoke designs, as well as continued demand for matching sets for families.
Although still very firmly falling in the informal category, perhaps it won’t be too long before we can expect to see people wearing pajamas and other types of sleepwear to the office or other formal occasions.
Well, you never know. Anything is possible in the ever-changing world of fashion!
Do you have a favorite pair of pajamas? Or do you and your kids love to dress up in matching sets?
Please share your pics with us!