Here at The Art Gorgeous we love our pyjamas. We would be in them 24/7 if we didn’t ever need to leave the house or see anyone. Which is why that’s exactly what we did during the lockdowns. Ever had an important Zoom meeting with your makeup done, suit jacket on, and out-of-view wearing ancient Mickey Mouse PJs on your bottom half? Um, yeah, no – us neither.
The word ‘pyjamas’ derives from Hindi, and the term came to West in the 17th Century because of the British presence in India. Pyjamas were a unisex uniform in the Middle East and India, comprising of billowing trousers drawn in at the waist and tight to the ankles. Pyjamas didn’t become casual-wear in the West until the late 19th Century in Britain. Pyjamas became a staple item for newly-liberated women in the 1930s looking to cause a stir by wearing something “masculine” (with trousers) and exotic, too. Coco Chanel rocked them on multiple occasions.
Pre-pyjamas you had Victorian night shirts and before that people would simply wear their daily undergarments to bed. And people have always slept in their birthday suits, at least on occasion…
Due to pyjamas being an outfit usually only seen inside the home (although you might also spot them in the corner shop when getting hangover supplies on a Sunday morning) very few artists – especially pre 1950 – have every immortalised them in their art.
We have gone on a scavenger hunt through art history to find examples of nightwear in paintings that’ll put “treat self to new pyjamas” on the top of your ‘to do’ list.
John Collier – The Sleeping Beauty, 1929
She might well be confused after waking up from a 100 year-long sleep, but won’t she be thrilled that this is her outfit!? This painting by John Collier certainly shows one of the most luxurious sets of PJs we could imagine. Warm we bet.
Felix Vallotton – Laying Down Woman, Sleeping, 1899
So this one isn’t strictly nightwear, but aren’t the patterns fabulous? The Nabis master, Felix Vallotton, has shown this figure wrapped cosily up in a large checkered blanket that we wish was ready for us on the sofa right now.
Anita Klein – Betty’s Long Legs, 2021
Anita Klein has several paintings which show children in pyjamas wrapped in playful embraces. We love how these pieces make us feel as the nostalgia sets in for that moment you’d be put fresh pyjamas after bath time as a child.
John Williams Godward – Preparing for the Bath, 1900
One of several of our ‘Toilette’ paintings which show women readying themselves for the day. When are we going to see sheer floor-length nightgowns on the Savage x Fenty runway!? Because our credit cards are at the ready.
Louise Catherine Breslau – La Toilette, 1898
Another morning routine painting – we are loving this flowing dressing gown which is much more glamorous than the fluffy one we’ve got at home. While the figure is already partially dressed in an obviously restricting corset which would be a nightmare to sleep in, we couldn’t help but include this work in our sleepwear list.
Sophie Vallance Cantor – New Pyjamas, 2021
Our favourite painting of pyjamas ever? Definitely. We love the bold pattern of this green two-piece in Sophie Vallance Cantor’s recent work, and especially the pop of blue in the sock. Sleeping in socks? Controversial.
Auguste Toulmouche – La Toilette, 1890
Another dressing gown appreciation selection. This cornflower blue robe is beautiful and signals the worldly tastes of the figure. I mean – an enormous mirror, a beautiful set of pyjamas, and flowers probably from your lover – what more do you need?
Author: Verity Babbs