What Did Men Wear for Night Clothes in the 1920s?

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The striped PJ was introduced in the mid 1920s.
The striped PJ was introduced in the mid 1920s. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

The 1920s was a decade of change. World War I was over, but the horror of the war was still fresh in everyone's mind. While we are all familiar with the dramatic women's wear trends of the bob, the dropped waistline and the flapper dress, menswear also changed. Sleepwear for men became what we know it as today.

The Sleepshirt

The sleep shirt was the primary men's sleepwear item at the beginning of the 1920s. A sleepshirt was a woven shirt that buttoned down the front. Sleep shirts were ankle length and could vary in fabric from winter flannel to summer lawn. They were often white, gray or black, and were strictly utilitarian.

The New Pajama

By the mid 1920s a revolution in men's sleepwear had begun. Designers and customers alike felt a need to separate themselves from the World War I era, in sleepwear as well. Suddenly, the men's pajama emerged. It was a two-piece jacket and pant, both made of a woven fabric, loose enough to be comfortable. The jacket was either collarless or had a loose collar that could remain unbuttoned. The jacket was either equipped with buttons down the center front or a sash for an overlapping front. The pant had either buttons or a draw-tie at the waistline, and pant hems could be straight or elasticized.

Fabrics, Stripes, and Colors

The new pajama was not to be anything like the sleepshirt. The sleepshirt came in drab colors, so the pajama would be bright. Men's pajamas came in almost every color and stripes. Stripes in pajamas were particularly groundbreaking because it promoted the wearing of pajamas in other places besides the bedroom. The fabrics varied: from summer cotton lawn to silk, to the new faux silk, rayon, to cotton flannel for cold nights.

The Oriental Influence

The 1920s saw a huge oriental influence from Chinese and Japanese culture. Silks were popular, as were oriental details like frog closures for pajama jacket tops. Oriental style prints were also very important, even on men's sleepwear. Pajamas began to be worn on the beach and for lounging as well. Men's pajamas influenced women's sleepwear, with the two-piece pajama becoming the choice sleepwear for women. Women's pajamas were printed with oriental motifs and pajama silhouettes included kimono sleeves and mandarin collars.

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