Fashion Never Sleeps

With pajama pants and shirts, slip dresses, and boudoir style back in fashion, this ensemble from 1968 recalls the trend for "evening pyjamas" in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Pyjamas first left the house in the 1930s, when women wore fashionable, wide-legged versions to the beach, parties, and informal dinners; some daring young things even wore them to the theatre. Evening pyjamas enjoyed a powerful resurgence in the late 1960s, as pants became more acceptable for women around the clock. Though women were still banned from wearing trousers in many restaurants and formal settings, evening pyjamas were a "heavenly way to dress for small dinners, parties, dancing in the moonlight," according to Vogue.1 

771169ab-3Evening Pyjamas
Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, Paris
Fall/Winter 1968
Gift of Mrs. Alfred Bloomingdale

First reintroduced in Italy in the mid-1960s, evening pyjamas represented "a splurge of Eastern fantaisie, optical illusion, brash invention–on an over-your-traces kick, dusk to dawn."2 Exotic accessories like ostrich feathers, chandelier earrings, and turbans reflected the Eastern origins of the style; elaborate bouffant hairstyles further refuted any notion that the wearer had just rolled out of bed. Eye-catching textiles might include colorful stripes, psychadelic prints, or oversized clown polka dots; alternatively, transparent chiffon revealed the shape of female legs sheathed within pants "so wide you can't tell they're pants till you move."3


In 1967, designer Leo Narducci advertised a striped "party pajama," poetically described as "a visual expression of your most exciting self. To make evenings all the more interesting, at your home, or somebody else's."4 Indeed, pyjamas seemed to have encouraged women to indulge in adventurous sartorial role-playing. Coco Chanel–who had pioneered the concept of beach pajamas on the French Riviera in the 1930s–introduced sleek gold lamé and silk shantung "dinner pajamas" in the fall of 1965. Donald Brooks' flamenco-accented evening pyjamas of 1967 were constructed of flounces of black lace, with one shoulder bared. This ensemble of 1968 was made for Los Angeles socialite Betsy Bloomingdale by Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Though the yellow qiana nylon crepe is fairly subdued, the tunic-style top has gold-embroidered epaulets and a belt trimmed with gold beads and ostrich feathers–typically exotic touches. Far from sleepwear, this is an outfit made for staying up all night.

Betsy Bloomingdale and friends in Beverly Hills, c. 1968. Photo courtesy Betsy Bloomingdale. 

1Vogue, April 15, 1969.

2Vogue, March 15, 1965.

3Vogue April 15, 1969.

4Vogue, April 1, 1967.

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