Pajamas as Fashion

This blurring of these boundaries began long ago. Women had begun experimenting with the adaptation

Pyjama Film Scenes

Claudette Colbert in men's-style pajama, 1934. In the 1934 film comedy It Happened One Night, actress Claudette Colbert dons a pair of men's-style pajamas in a bedroom scene with Clark Gable. This famous scene popularized the men's pajama look among women. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Claudette Colbert in men's-style pajama, 1934. In the 1934 film comedy It Happened One Night, actress Claudette Colbert dons a pair of men's-style pajamas in a bedroom scene with Clark Gable. This famous scene popularized the men's pajama look among women. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

of pajama-style trousers since the eighteenth century, but this was associated with masquerade costume, actresses, and prostitution, not with respectable women. In 1851, Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894), an American feminist, adopted voluminous "Turkish trousers" worn with a knee-length skirt as an alternative to fashionable dress. The response to her appearance was overwhelmingly negative, and the "Bloomer Costume" failed to gain acceptance.

Pajamas began to be adapted into fashionable dress in the early years of the twentieth century when avantgarde designers promoted them as an elegant alternative to the tea gown. French couturier Paul Poiret launched pajama styles for both day and evening as early as 1911, and his influence played a large role in their eventual acceptance.

Beach pajamas, which were worn by the seaside and for walking on the boardwalk, were popularized by

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in the early 1920s. The first beach pajamas were worn by the adventuresome few, but by the end of the decade had become acceptable dress for the average woman. Evening pajamas, intended to be worn as a new type of costume for informal dining at home, also became widely accepted during this decade. Evening pajamas would remain popular throughout the 1930s and would reemerge in the 1960s in the form of "palazzo pajamas."

Palazzo pajamas were introduced by the Roman designer Irene Galitzine in 1960 for elegant but informal evening dress. They greatly influenced fashion during the 1960s and continued into the casual 1970s. Palazzo pajamas featured extremely wide legs and were often made of soft silk and decorated with beading and fringe. During the 1970s, eveningwear and loungewear merged, as evening styles became increasingly simple and unstructured. Halston was particularly known for his bias-cut pantsuits of satin and crepe, which he referred to as "pa-jama dressing." In light of this, popular magazines suggested readers shop in the lingerie departments for their eveningwear.

This increased informality of dress has made the evening pajama a staple in modern fashion, and the Asian influence on designers like Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani has blurred the boundaries between dress and undress even further. It is likely that this trend will continue well into the twenty-first century.

See also Lingerie; Trousers; Unisex Clothing. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calasibetta, Charlotte. The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion. New

York: Fairchild Publications, 1983. Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Lanham,

Md.: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992. Gross, Elaine, and Fred Rottman. Halston: An American Original. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. Kidwell, Claudia Brush, and Valerie Steele. Men and Wommen: Dressing the Part. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. Probert, Christina. Swimwear in Vogue since 1910. New York:

Abbeville Press, 1981. Sears, Roebuck Catalogue, 1902 Edition. New York: Gramercy

Books, 1993 (reprint). Wilcox, R. Turner. The Dictionary of Costume. New York:

Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969. Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.

Clare Sauro

PANNIERS. See Skirt Supports.

PANTIES Underpants or drawers, known colloquially as "panties," were first worn during the Renaissance for function but were also used as a chastity device. They were described at the time as "helping women keep clean and protecting them from the cold, they prevent the thighs being seen if they fall off a horse. These drawers also protect them against adventurous young men, because if they slip their hands under their skirts they can't touch their skin at all" (Saint-Laurent, p. 65). As a result of their direct contact with the female genitals, underpants were considered the most risqué of garments, so much so that it was considered almost more immodest to wear them than not, as they not only concealed but also drew attention to the vagina. Thus, until the mid-nineteenth century, they were primarily worn by prostitutes and by little girls.

By 1841, however, The Handbook of the Toilet suggested that French drawers were "of incalculable advantage to women, preventing many of the disorders and indispositions to which ... females are subject. The drawers may be of flannel, calico, or cotton, and should reach as far down the leg as possible without their being seen" (Carter, p. 46). Underpants were variously known as drawers, knickers (derived from the original knickerbocker), smalls, britches, and step-ins. Nineteenth-century drawers were designed so that each leg of the garment was separate and the crotch was either open or sewn closed. By the end of World War I, as skirts became shorter, underpants became scantier. Thus in the 1920s, underpants were much smaller than in the nineteenth century.

Outside the realm of erotica and the burlesque theater, underpants were intended to be hidden garments. During the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 1949, tennis player Gertrude Moran took to the court wearing a short tennis dress, designed by Teddy Tinling, that revealed a pair of ruffled lace-trimmed knickers. This apparel made headlines around the world as a very daring fashion statement. One of the seminal panty moments of post-World War II film saw Marilyn Monroe revealing her underpants when a draft from a subway grating blew up her skirt in the film The Seven Year Itch (1955).

The 1960s saw the development of matching bra and brief sets, disposable paper panties, and the bikini brief. In the 1990s, a new fashion for thong underwear became popular. More recently, boy-style underwear briefs have come into fashion for women. By the 1990s the meaning of panties had completely changed. Previously they had to be hidden at all costs but in this decade it became fashionable to wear big waist high pants under the transparent outerwear designs of Gianni Versace or Dolce & Gabbana. The deliberately non-sexual look of the pants diffused the potential vulgarity of the clothes above.

See also Brassiere; Lingerie; Underwear. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carter, Alison. Underwear: The Fashion History. London: B.T.

Batsford, Ltd. New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1992. Chenoune, Farid. Beneath It All: A Century of French Lingerie.

New York: Rizzoli, 1999. Saint-Laurent, Cecil. The Great Book of Lingerie. London: Academy Editions, 1986.

Caroline Cox

PAPER DRESSES The paper dress enjoyed a brief but lively vogue in the late 1960s as a novelty fashion item. A simple, above-the-knee length chemise, constructed from nonwoven cellulose tissue reinforced with rayon or nylon, the inexpensive "paper" garment featured bold printed designs and was meant to be discarded after a few wearings.

Individual paper clothes and accessories existed as early as the nineteenth century, when paper was especially popular for masquerade costumes. The first modern paper dress is credited to the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia, which introduced it as a 1966 mail-in promotion. Consumers were invited to send in a coupon from a Scott product, along with $1.25, in order to receive a "Paper Caper" dress made of Dura-Weve, a material the company had patented in 1958. The dress boasted either a striking black-and-white Op Art pattern or a red bandanna print. Scott's sales pitch underscored its transience: "Won't last forever.. .who cares? Wear it for kicks—then give it the air."

The campaign was unexpectedly successful, generating 500,000 shipments and stimulating other manufacturers to promote paper garments. Within a year of Scott's promotion, paper fashions were on sale in major department stores. Some, such as Abraham & Strauss and I. Magnin, created entire paper clothing boutiques. At the height of the craze, Mars Hosiery of Asheville, N.C., was reportedly manufacturing 100,000 dresses a week.

A big factor in the appeal of the dresses was their eye-catching patterns—daisies, zigzags, animal prints, stripes—that suggested Pop Art. Some imagery made the dresses akin to walking billboards, showcasing ads for Time magazine, Campbell's Soup cans, political candidates, and poster-sized photographs. Fun and fashion-forward, the dresses could be hemmed with scissors or colored with crayons. And, at about $8 apiece they were affordable, inspiring Mademoiselle magazine editors to exclaim in June 1967: "The paper dress is the ultimate smart-money fashion" (p. 99).

Modern, whimsical, and disposable, paper garments captured the 1960s zeitgeist. It was a time when new industrial materials like plastics and metallic fibers were making inroads, Rudi Gernreich and Paco Rabanne were pushing the limits of clothing design, and the post-World War II baby boomers were in the throes of a vibrant youth culture centered on fashion and music. Consumers accepted the notion of cheap, throwaway clothing as they embraced disposable cutlery, plates, razors, napkins, lighters, and pens. The fashion press even predicted that paper garments might take over the marketplace.

Instead, by 1968 paper dresses had lost their currency. Wearers found they could be ill-fitting and uncomfortable, the printed surfaces could rub off, and there were concerns about flammability and excessive postconsumer waste. Plus, they had simply lost their cutting-edge appeal due to overexposure.

However, the dresses' paperlike cellulose fabric was adapted as a practical and lightweight material for disposable garments for hospital and factory workers. And the legacy of the 1960s paper dress continues to inspire contemporary fashion designers like Yeohlee and Vivi-enne Tam, whose spring 1999 collection featured a line of clothes constructed from DuPont Tyvek, the reinforced paper used in overnight mail envelopes.

See also Fads; Gernreich, Rudi; Rabanne, Paco.


Palmer, Alexandra. "Paper Clothes: Not Just a Fad," In Dress and Popular Culture. Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991, pp. 85-105. "Paper Profits." Mademoiselle June 1967, 99-101. Szabo, Julia. "Pulp Fashion Continues to Inspire," New York Daily News, May 30, 1999.

Internet Resources

"Paper Dress, 1966." Available from

<>. Kimberly-Clark. "1966, The Paper Caper Dress." Available from < .asp>.

Kathleen Paton

PAQUIN, JEANNE Jeanne Paquin (1869-1936) was the first woman to gain international celebrity in the fashion business. Her design career spanned the three decades from 1891 to 1920. She was born Jeanne Marie Charlotte Beckers in l'Ile Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris. As a young girl she was employed at a local dressmaker's shop and then became a seamstress at the distinguished Parisian firm of Maison Rouff. In February 1891 she married Isidore Rene Jacob dit Paquin (legally changed to Paquin in 1899), a former banker and businessman. One month before their marriage he founded the House of Paquin at 3, rue de la Paix, where for two years prior he was a partner in a couture business under the name of Paquin Lalanne et Cie. Creating a new business model, with Madame as head designer and her husband as business administrator, the couple built a couture business whose worldwide scope and stylistic influence were unparalleled during the early years of the twentieth century. Their innovative approaches to marketing and youthful yet sumptuous design aesthetic attracted fashionable women of the world who were poised for a new fashion image at the end of the Victorian era. The diverse and prestigious client list included famous actresses and courtesans, European royals, and the wives of American business tycoons such as Rockefeller, Astor, Vanderbilt, Ballantine, and Wannamaker. At its height the house employed more than two thousand workers, surpassing even the house of Worth. In 1907 Isidore Paquin died suddenly, leaving Jeanne Paquin to head their fashion empire alone. Her half brother, Henri Joire, and his wife, Suzanne, joined her as partners in 1911. She retired in 1920 and eleven years later married Jean-Baptiste Noulens, a French diplomat. The House of Paquin remained open under a series of designers, until it merged with Worth in 1954. Worth-Paquin closed in 1956.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Farout Fashion

Farout Fashion

Get All The Support And Guidance You Need To Be A Success At Far out Fashion. This Book Is One Of The Most Valuable Resources In The World When It Comes To A Look at the Latest Craziest Fashion Fads.

Get My Free Ebook


  • Pirkko
    What do palazzo pajamas look like?
    8 years ago

Post a comment