The History of Pajamas from Fashion to Sleepwear

By Riley Seymour | Mar 22, 2023

The History of Pajamas from Fashion to Sleepwear

By Riley Seymour | Mar 22, 2023

We might be biased because we make ultra-comfortable, temperature-regulating pajamas here at Cozy Earth, but we feel like the popular nightwear is often taken for granted. With 74% of Americans wearing PJs to bed, and a growing number wearing them all day because they're more comfortable than jeans when working from home, let's take a moment to consider the history of pajamas.


What Are Pajamas?

In their current form, pajamas are comfortable sets of nightwear consisting of pants or shorts and a matching top. They can be made from any comfortable material, including bamboo viscose, silk, flannel, and cotton. But they didn't start out as sleepwear. In fact, their history may surprise you.


The Origin of Pajamas

One of the earliest known references to pajamas dates back to the 1600s when a Frenchman named Jean de Thevenot mentioned the Portuguese wore them when going to bed in his travelogue. The Europeans adopted the comfortable clothing from India, where Muslim men and women wore them as part of their daily dress. In that culture, the meaning of pajamas (or pyjamas) was comfortable pants that tied at the waist and were appropriate for both men and women to wear in public. When the colonial British brought them back to England, merchants called them "mogul's breeches" and touted them as comfortable fashionwear. Around 1870, they became popular loungewear for men, and by the early 1900s, they had evolved into the popular sleepwear we know today.


Pajama Styles Through the Years

Tracing the spread of the popularity of PJs through the years, we can see their evolution from their South Asian roots to our popular sleepwear.


History of Pajamas Timeline

  • Pre-1600s – Pajamas were drawstring-waist pants worn by men and women of India and other South Asian countries as everyday clothing.
  • 1600s – Pajamas were first introduced to European traders and colonizers.
  • 1800s – British gentlemen made them popular fashion items.
  • Early 1900s – They became part of a set of pants and tops, or smoking jackets, worn at home as luxury loungewear.
  • 1930s – Women in the western world began wearing them, too. Starting at that time and sprinkled through brief periods of the 20th century, pop culture saw Hollywood stars flaunt them as high fashion.
  • Early 2000s – Pajama pants started being seen in public again.
  • 2020s – With many people transitioning to working from home during the pandemic, pajamas have become popular workwear, too.
Woman wearing red silk Cozy Earth PJ top


Whether you're reading this in the comfort of your bedroom or taking a mental break from back-to-back virtual meetings in your home office, we hope this brief history of pajamas has inspired you to elevate your loungewear to the most comfortable you can find. May we humbly suggest our own for both men and women?

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