"A woman may and does wear pyjamas to quite formal dinners in her own house, to other people's dinners in town and country if you know them well and the more iconoclastic members of the female sex even wear them to the theatre."
"Pyjamas – When are they worn?" Vogue 1 June 1931

The quote above is a little contributing justification towards the purchase of this set of pyjamas that I cannot and will not shorten to PJs because quite simply these are a different beast to the fleecy, Sanrio character-ridden, slubby, couch potato attire that I refer to as PJs.  Vogue 1931 doesn't get the last say though because I seem to have a LOT to chat about this particular Saturday purchase. 

My visits to Alfie's Antiques Market in Marylebone normally makes me balk at the prices of collectibles and in particular vintage clothing always involves some fairly 'heavyweight' pricing because the vendor can normally reel off a whole backstory proving the piece's provenance.  I don't resent this at all given that my own taste in vintage has gotten a bit more selective over the years anyway and London can cause some justified price hiking (rents, bills blah blah…).  Still, I do normally hold back in nodding at the backstory of a vintage piece and actually handing over my debit card.  This time round, I blame the fact that the guy at Tin Tin Collectibles described these wide-legged silk pyajama pants and matching short-sleeved shirt as 'cocktail pyjamas' from the 1930s-40s.  My ears were pricked by the term and suddenly I was handing over my debit card…

I'll spend some time trying to deduce what went on in the thought process behind this random transaction…

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The instant swaying factor I suppose were these unusual colours which struck me as I passed by Tin Tin Collectibles, and as well as being non-nighty shades (the usual ivory, pastels etc…), also reminded me of Richard Nicoll S/S 10, a collection that I distinctly remember…

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Rnicss102
(Backstage photography by Patrick Lindblom for Dazed Digital)

Upon closer inspection, the treatment of this particular fabric is also something I've never seen before where the striped fabric has been created by contrasting a matte, grosgrain-esque lilac silk with a more even weft/warp dusky pink silk.

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There's also a neatness to the handstitched pockets which I hardly ever see…

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But back to the mere notion of cocktail pyjamas.  It's ever so easy to retrogade and think "Oh how LOVELY it would be to return to a time when women would lounge about in pyjamas hosting cocktail parties and swanning about declaring everything to be 'Too darling!'"  Sadly that alone can't justify the ¬£150 pricetag on this set.  However the historics of the 30s pyjama venturing outside the house are fascinating.  An article published in 1931 and re-typed here goes through the hours of the day, describes the different styles of pyjamas that should be worn with a distinction to be made "between hostess pajamas that stay at home and the tea pajama that gads." – I'm hoping mine is the type that gads.  It also cites the trend as originating in "smart European resorts" which leads onto the blog La Mode Pyjama, tracking pictorial evidence of MANY types of pyjamas 'sur la plage' – I particularly like the instances where we can see colour, shedding a different light onto the juicy sun-drenched ensembles that also recall some of the 70s by way of 40s collections from S/S 11.  Hollywood also has much to answer for promulgating the trend with designer Adrian putting striped pyjamas meant as formalwear on Greta Garbo in the film The Single Standard.  Above all, I'm sort of fascinated by the development of the pyjama throughout the 20s-30s from risque eveningwear for women in a bohemian environment to standardised loungewear and its association with the normal confines of 'resort wear'. 

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Kageyama Pyjama-Officiel

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Fast forward to the present and of course the pyjama meant for outdoors wear set has done its turn, most memorably in Dolce & Gabbana's S/S 08 collection and of course other palazzo/pyjama hybrids have cropped up in plenty of instances.  Still, stripping all of the history, the developments and its relevance to high-end designers, the number one motivation factor for the pyjama purchase was the instant love and knowing that there were far more possibilities for wearing them out that go beyond a bohemian house rager or a jaunt to the theatre. 

After trying them on a few times, I can also say there's a SWOOSH factor of the fine silk brushing up against leg that is most satisfying.

Bah… all this talk and it just comes down to pure L.O.V.E… I'm wasting all this time typing which is cutting into my actual 'lounging' time wearing them.  Nighty-night… and err… don't eat too much cheese before bed…  

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(Worn with vintage denim shirt, Prada jumper, Miu Miu pink shoes and G.H.O.S.T. necklace)

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(Trying them on with Brook & Lyn's surrounded necklace…)

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(Worn with Eudon Choi pale pink trench and Pierre Hardy x Louise Goldin ankle boots)

Comments (37)

  1. A very dashing look indeed! I love some nighty night action – and ah for the cocktail element xx

  2. Well worth it, they are lovely in themseleves, extremely unusual, and it is great to understand something of the history. Love them paired with the pink trench – how would they go with your kimono jacket? That is probably something they would have been worn with at the time, kimonos were big in the 20s and 30s x

  3. I absolutely love these pyjamas and I hesitate to call them that because they are so elegant. Lounge wear maybe? I’ve been dieing for a pair of wide legged 40s lounging pants. There is a pair I am coveting from a vintage magazine photo on my blog. Great find Susie!

  4. Eline says:

    WHOA I am so totally astounded by the awesomeness of these pyjamas! Whatever the price, it was worth it. Ohhh I love the trousers especially, they have a wicked 70s vibe too.

  5. lollie says:

    finally i can wear my pjs (mine are more pjs) in public!
    http://www.lollie-likes.blogspot.com
    x

  6. Lara says:

    Brilliant and worth every penny!They’re so pristine and the neat hand-stitching blew me away too. Marc Jacobs SS2011 colors? They look lovely on you! This is definitely going to inspire me in expanding my Spring wardrobe.

  7. Sophia says:

    Ok you have officially made this crazy set look wearable. I don’t know how you always do it but look 2 and three are amazing. Seriously brilliant and clearly worth the money!! <3
    skiepies.blogspot.com/

  8. nyc fashion says:

    This is a great look so worth it !!!
    http://nyc-fashion.com/

  9. Such an interesting post – love those vintage pictures. Makes me want to slub around in a pair of cream silk pajamas instead of the polar bear print ones I’m currently wearing. Plus, ‘pajamas as outerwear’ is an excellent excuse, should I ever get kicked out of Tesco in mine…

  10. Carrie says:

    Loved the article on the history of the cocktail pyjama and yours are the cat’s meow!

  11. diane says:

    You make the imagination soar with your writing and photographs. Lovely post Susie. xo d

  12. Bringing back an old classic is always a smart move.
    Totally love it with the powder pink trench.
    Cheers!

  13. Terri says:

    I think these jammies are a real find even without all the backstory. Looks lovely with the trench!

  14. Adorable!!!! And I wanted to tell you that I love your blog, it’s such an inspiring place! Go on like this!

  15. Katie M says:

    wow this post is so strange because I found a big picture heavy biography on Garbo a few months ago while charity shop rummaging and the picture of Garbo in those striped PJs is one of my favourite in the whole book! SO weird!

  16. Dru says:

    I love them- that chalky blue and muted red are one of the oddest but most perfect colour combinations I’ve ever seen! (and not just because the mere fact of blue and red stripes of any shade together reminds me of Barca football shirts).
    And they look a thousand times better than Juicy/whateverbrand tracksuits, which people do wear out all the time without any thought- if anyone could have pulled this off, it’s you.

  17. susie_bubble says:

    Dru: The colours are MAUVE and DUSKY PINK – if Steve thought they had ANYTHING to do with Barca colours (Or Aston Villa or West Ham in fact…) he may not want me wearing it!

  18. kaffy says:

    the mix and match looks great!~

  19. Great post, I look forward to reading more.

  20. Me absolutely love thosee pyjamas and I hesitate to call them that because they are so sleek and elegant too… And I wanna say you that me go crazy for all ur blog, it‚Äôs such an inspiring place!!!!!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dolxfld6uQE Feel like giving a big hug for sharing such a wonderfull stuffs to us..

  21. sunshine says:

    I collect vintage pajamas and these are amongst the best I’ve ever seen! I regularly wear a set with chinoiserie print from the 40s, but this 30s set just slays me. best colourway ever. what a find!

  22. BMW 320i SE says:

    Thanks for the post. Keep the great work.

  23. Dru says:

    Ooops, sorry Susie, I guess I’m a little colourblind :)

  24. Those are some pyjamas, very cool! Now I’m intrigued to try this look myself…and as a side note…those hot pink shoes are GORGEOUS!!!

  25. lucylurve says:

    lucylurve.blogspot.com

  26. Shelley says:

    Those are absolutely gorgeous! The colour combination is unusual but really lovely together, and the fit is perfect–Great score!! I used to love finding vintage dressing gowns and had a beautiful blue and pink satin one with shoulder pads.

  27. jaderdavila pajama as streetwear says:

    wow
    i sure loved that.
    you never looked more pretty susie

  28. Naz says:

    WHOOAA – we love this article for some uber hot cocktail slippers to finish your beautiful Cocktail PYJs let me know what you think of our slippers http://www.rubyanded.co.uk – we would L.O.V.E to send you some to match your outfit Susie – FROM a big fan of your site Naz

  29. Duck says:

    Just be sure you don’t get kicked out of Tesco’s for wearing them…
    xx
    Duck

  30. Undoubtedly, the chicest pajamas in the world.

  31. Celia says:

    Actually, I wouldn’t wear them as PJ’s either, because the cut doesn’t feel really comfortable for lying in bed. Really looks more like trousers and a top.
    http://vagueunrest.blogspot.com/

  32. Gerlinde says:

    damn, what a discovery!! i think you might just have made my day.

  33. i love the necklace you are trying on. i went to Brook&Lyn’s blog and made myself a rope necklace too. Please check it out on my blog:
    http://byebyesoccermom.blogspot.com/2010/11/from-jogging-to-rocking-pants.html
    thanks!
    love your blog!

  34. Those pyjamas are heartstoppingly beautiful! What a stunning find. Love the vintage pic of the striped pyjamas with pleated hems. Great story too.

  35. Zoe says:

    awesome pyjamas! (pajamas?)

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