Lost in the Closet: Pyjamas (Beauty and the Beach)

Still from ‘Pyjama Peeps’ found at British Pathé, 1921

The seaside became the world’s most glamorous stage on which all who visited it could play whatever role they fancied for a brief space of time – From Victorian and Edwardian Seaside

As the new season collections begin the rounds in New York, a recent Vogue guide to pyjama dressing is a reminder that one of summer’s biggest trends is far from dead. Pyjama dressing, while sounding like something dreamed up on the pages of fashion magazines never to see the light of day, actually ties in with the Chinoiserie trend and also the 70s revival that was prevalent all over the catwalks and High Street last season. So much so that it has found favour everywhere from Harpers Bazaar to Refinery 29 and Fur Coat, No Knickers, while an influential Style Bubble post saw Alfie’s Antiques Market swamped with requests for similar pyjama sets. Even Ryan Gosling and Rachel Roy have picked up the mantle. My own minor obsession unfortunately doesn’t reach the lofty heights of Marc Jacobs or Louis Vuitton but does feature three different pyjama sets from three different eras.

Pink 1940s pyjama set that I acquired from an antiques market while staying with friends who run the vintage store Another Man’s Treasure; green suit from my mother, circa 1972, she guesses it was from Bourne and Hollingsworth department store; yellow Topshop pyjama suit bought this summer.

The main inspiration behind this trend is the beach wear of the then-newly fashionable coastlines of the 20s and 30s. According to Sun, Sea and Sand: The Great British Seaside Holiday, the style started in 1927, worn over swim suits by the smart set at the Riviera and then became a common sight throughout the 30s on the beaches of Britain. The Art Deco craze meant they often had geometric prints, and the Depression-era interest in creating synthetic fabrics ensured that the modish new beach suits could be made of silk but were more often made from crêpe de chine, éponge (early towelling) or jersey. Perfect examples of this chic beachwear are shown in this fashion show on the Thames from 1932 from British Pathé:

‘Father Thames’ Daughters’ from 1932 also found here

But flamboyance at the beach was nothing new… CLICK HERE to continue reading Beauty and the Beach at British Pathé!

About Amber Jane

Amber Butchart is a fashion historian on a quest to reveal the secrets of our sartorial past and place the semiotics of style in a wider cultural, political and social sphere. She has contributed to productions for BBC 1 & 2, BBC Learning, Radio 4, Channel 4 and Sky Arts, from Making History and Woman’s Hour to Great British Sewing Bee, and she presents a regular ‘In Conversation’ series at the V&A museum looking at issues concerning the clothed body in fashion and performance. She is an Associate Lecturer in Cultural & Historical Studies at London College of Fashion, where she lectures across a number of areas concerning fashion, the body and contemporary culture, from the impact of blogging on fashion media to fashion and the grotesque. Shot by Vogue as a girl with great British style, her interest in antique clothing was ignited by working as Head Buyer for vintage clothing company Beyond Retro, and for 5 years she was a regular contributor to leading trend analysis company WGSN. As the red-haired half of the Sony-nominated Broken Hearts DJ duo she co-hosts a weekly radio show on Jazz FM focussing on swing music, with an emphasis on rediscovering forgotten women of the Jazz Age; and as live DJs they have graced stages across the globe for the likes of Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood and Louis Vuitton. A former Research Fellow at the University of the Arts London, Amber has spoken at the Institute for Contemporary Arts, British Museum, Royal Academy, British Library, Wellcome Collection, British Film Institute, and is a regular on the SHOWstudio fashion week panels. She is a member of the Royal Historical Society and the Association of Dress Historians and her book Nautical Chic: a history of high fashion on the high seas, is forthcoming in 2015 published by Thames & Hudson. Amber Jane Butchart's Fashion Miscellany, her compilation of vestimentary oddities, is out now.
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One Response to Lost in the Closet: Pyjamas (Beauty and the Beach)

  1. Pingback: No People Like Show People: Vesta Tilley and the Tuxedo | Theatre of Fashion

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