Inspired historically by the traditional harem pant, pyjama take their name from the Persian word Payjama, meaning simply ‘leg garment’. As Wikipedia states: “The original pāijāma are loose, lightweight pants fitted with drawstring waistbands and worn throughout Asia by both sexes”.
Men were first to jump on the pyjama bandwagon in 1870. By the 1890s the pyjama pant and top had replaced the night-shirt they traditionally wore, and by the 1930s they were an integral part of the male wardrobe. Considered elegant evening attire, gentlemen would lounge around their homes at night in the finest cotton pjs and silk striped pajamas with a dressing gown stylishly draped on top. One famous example was Oscar Wilde who immortalised the pajama style.
For women the journey was a little slower, but luckily Coco Chanel’s elegant lounging and beachwear pajamas soon convinced women that a well cut pyjama pant and top were a far more preferable and stylish alternative to nighties and nightgowns, even for daytime.
From then on pajamas continued to grow in popularity with both sexes. Men wore pyjamas almost exclusively and in fabrics such as cotton, twill and flannelette; with checked and striped pajamas proving to be the most popular. For women, the invention in 1960 of the ‘palazzo pajamas’, wide legged pajama pants made from silk, made the pajama a firm fixture on the 60s fashion scene and a stylish womenswear choice for evening events.