Fashion: The history of... Pyjamas - Lounge back in langour

When the days are so short and summer seems a long way off, what better way to stay cosy at night than to snuggle up in a pair of cotton pyjamas from Toast, or some slinky silk PJs from Bonsoir of London? The word pyjama stems from the Hindi word paejama, meaning "leg covering", and men first started wearing them around 1870, after the returning colonials brought them back from the East.

In the 1890s, pyjamas, in wool and silk were starting to replace the night-shirt for gentlemen and, by the Thirties, they had become a key part of a man's wardrobe. Pyjamas could be worn at home as elegant evening attire in materials such as silk and cotton.

Until the beginning of this century it had not been thought proper for women to wear pyjamas, as they preferred the more feminine nightdress. That began to change at the start of the Twenties with Coco Chanel's lounging pyjamas, worn in the evening, and the beachwear versions, worn on holiday, convincing women that pyjamas could be a stylish alternative to nighties.

Between the wars, pyjamas grew in popularity with both sexes, and for women came in a more tailored style, with a tunic top and narrow legs.

From the start of the Thirties, pyjama legs started to be cut wider and looked like a skirt. Men now almost exclusively wore pyjamas, in cotton twill, calico and flannelette and decorated with pale stripes - still the most popular style today. In 1960, the fashion designer, Princess Irene Galitzine, launched her "palazzo pyjamas", which became popular.

Pyjamas are a necessity in cold countries and a PJ fashion shoot was featured in the January issue of The Face, proving they never go out of fashion. Derek Rose Pyjamas has been making quality PJs since 1925, and has recently launched its Millennium Collection of pyjamas. This will feature a design from each decade of the 20th century, and will be made up from original patterns. So, by autumn 1999, we might all be wearing fabulous lounging pyjamas not seen since, ooh, the Roaring Twenties.

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