the history of sleepwear

The origin of the pajama is a rich history lesson in and of itself, appearing as far back as the Ottoman empire. Back then, the style of sleepwear worn by both genders resembled skinny joggers - tapered ankle/shin, looser at the thigh, baggier up top, and tied off with a drawstring.

The origin of their name, “pai jama,” is Hindi for “leg clothing” - so the onesie was definitely not a thing yet. Nightgowns were also a common type of tunic-style sleepwear, but pajamas, as we know them, didn’t really gain popularity until they made their way to Europe in the 1800s.


Why did pajamas become popular?

Pajamas, like many other things in history, became coveted for their ability to convey status. Part of the popularity of pj’s was functional - they provided warmth before central heating. But because pajamas also became used exclusively for bedtime, they proved cleaner than wearing your daily undergarments to bed (which helped protect bedding and upholstery). Made of standard white cotton, pjs in this era were equal parts prudent and private.



How did pajamas become trendy?


It was'nt until the 1900s when pajamas for women evolved into a way to convey personal style. Clothing designers began adding details and changing silhouettes to suit the times. From bows and lace to fur trim and feather boas, sleepwear was becoming as fashion-forward as its daytime clothing counterparts.

2 women wearing fashion forward nightgowns of the 1920's with lace trim

When did sleepwear become sexy?

As women started to step into their sexuality from the 1920s onward, sleepwear took a sharp turn towards bombshell territory. Silk, satin, bold colours, provocative cuts - the negligee rose in popularity (and notoriety). Whether this was for the woman herself (or for her husband) remains something hotly debated today.

Around the 1960s, things changed even more drastically. Women got into the trend of buying matching bras and panties (often with matching babydolls or gowns to boot). In the 70s was when loungewear really took hold, with lingerie starting to blur the lines between evening wear and sleepwear. This became a time when women adopted the baggy flannels typically worn by men and proclaimed that comfort trumped all.

women wearing babydoll sleepwear

What’s the result in sleepwear today?

From grunge rock to Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, women’s sleepwear today draws from so many different cultural influences. Regardless of what you choose to wear in the bedroom or to lounge around in, one thing feels universally true for women today - comfort is queen. As consumers become more and more informed about materials, sourcing, and garment design, it’s an exciting time to be a maker.

women wearing sleep tank dress pajamas