Tag Archives: beach pajamas 1937

Costume in Context: Women in Trousers

Women in trousers -- beach pajama outfits -- in Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Women in trousers — beach pajama outfits — in Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Costume in Context:  Just because a fashion existed, we should never assume it was worn everywhere and by everyone who could afford it.

Women wearing beach pajamas and playsuits in a an illustration by Weldon Tranch, Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

Women wearing beach pajamas and playsuits in an illustration by Weldon Trench, Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1937.

These women in trousers are engaged in idealized farming, milking and harvesting. They are not in a public or urban setting. If you remember your grandmother shopping, dining out or selling real estate in trousers, you may find it hard to believe that most women did not wear trousers to work until the late 1960’s, although some wore them for casual events, like picnics in public places. The kind of restaurants that have a “dress code” today did not admit women in slacks.

A playsuit with shorts and a long skirt to wear as a cover-up. WHC, 1937.

A playsuit with shorts and a long skirt to wear as a cover-up. WHC, 1937.

The woman on the far right is wearing a popular option, a separate skirt that buttons over her shorts, creating a dress look that she can wear in public, perhaps on her way to the farm, or for a trip to the village.

I finally stopped reading a popular mystery series set in the 1920’s because of the very proper female detective’s jarring clothing choices. The author kept putting her in trousers (not breeches) during an era, and in settings, where they would have made her very conspicuous — not to say scandalous. [E.g., alone in London or a rural French village.] Although fashion magazines like Delineator showed patterns for evening pajamas in the late twenties and early thirties, the text always suggested that they be worn at private parties, at members-only country clubs, on cruises, or at resorts. I was reminded of their unsuitability for wear in public places by this story illustration — “a raffish crowd of Bohemians” — from 1935.

“A Raffish crowd of Bohemians;” story illustration from Delineator, Feb. 1935.

The young woman in trousers is surrounded by men and women in a state of undress — not “respectable” people. Is her outfit historically accurate? Yes. However, context matters. One of the men in trenchcoats [detectives?] has just told her, “Come with me.”

“What a thrill!” said the girl.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Sportswear, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Women in Trousers