Callot Soeurs, 1911-1913
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Many pieces of clothing that eventually come to be accepted as normal wear for every day begin as informal clothes to be worn in the privacy of home in the intimacy of friends and family. While women had long been wearing bifurcated skirts called “bloomers” for cycling, swimming, and other athletic activities, the pajama was the first woman’s garment specifically worn with pants. Occasionally, a woman looking to get people talking about her might wear a Persian-style fancy dress costume with voluminous harem pants, as the fact that eastern woman wore such garments was a sign of their licentiousness. The pajama comes from the unisex Indian paijama, and was first worn by men as night clothes. In the 1910s and 1920s, riding in on the surging popularity of orientalism, they were adopted by young, modern women as an alternative to the tea gown of the Victorian and Edwardian era.