I’ve always been a fan of wide-legged trousers for women. [If the widest part of your body is the upper thigh, trousers that fit tightly at the ankle will make you look like a parenthesis ( ), the “Venus” of Willendorf, or her sister, the “Venus” of Lespugue, especially from the rear. If you hate wide-legged pants, a classic trouser that drops straight from outer thigh to foot is a flattering choice.]
There were plenty of wide-legged beach pajamas and even very dressy evening pajamas to choose from in the early and mid-nineteen thirties. To read more about evening pajamas, click here.
Sailor-influenced Trousers for Women
“The newest pyjamas for beachwear … look more like those of a Breton sailor….” (See cartoon, above.)
The spellings “Pyjamas” and “Pajamas” were used interchangeably until “Pajamas” won out in in the U.S.
That Distinctive Front Opening on Sailors’ Trousers: The Fall Front
On Butterick # 4268, the two button flaps cleverly angle in toward the center of the waist, making the waist seem narrower (and the hips, wider….) The Vintage Traveler collected a pair of store-bought 1930’s sailor pajamas and wrote about them here, with detailed photos.
In 18th century men’s breeches, the use of two openings is called a fall front, among other names. The Regency Fashions blog has a good, long article about men’s breeches and trouser closings. Professor Linda Przybyszewski showed this rare pair of denim work pants from the 1840’s at her blog, The Lost Art of Dress. In the U.S. Navy, button-fly trousers with a fall front were worn long after zippers came into general use. These Navy uniform pants date to the 1960’s.
[Digression: I can’t resist describing Butterick dress pattern 4276 (above), which has an asymmetrical front view, and which cleverly used one of the back straps as a guide for the belt. And, surprise: the dress is not white, but green.]
In 1934, Delineator magazine showed a similar pair of front-buttoned sailor “pajamas” in dark fabric:
They were called “slacks,” rather than pajamas, here.
The next month, Butterick offered a whole page of “Sailor Made Fashions.”
Sailor suits, for little boys, and sailor middies (blouses) had been worn by children and in gym classes for decades, but here the sailor influence, from “laced” bodices to bell-bottomed trousers, is shown on grown women.
Dresses with decorative “lacing” on the bodice were featured in The Delineator (1935) and the Berth Robert catalog (1934.)
You could even get that jaunty nautical look with just a borrowed car and a “little white hat of unmistakable origin.”
In 1934, you could order a pair of flared beach pajamas with metal buttons at the sides and a coordinating sailor-stripe top from the Berth Robert catalog for $3.95:
Bib Overall Playsuits for Women
I seems strange that, while farmers were fleeing the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, bib overalls made their way into the fashion pages, where they remained in the form of lounge wear and playsuits until they became fully utilitarian in the factories of WW II.
Below the bib, those side-buttoned “tennis pajamas” look like sailor slacks.
A model in overalls and a lot of bare skin was on the masthead page of Delineator in 1932.
The middle section of the outfit shows that these beach pajamas are not really like workers’ overalls:
In this story illustration by Oscar F. Schmidt, a young woman wears purely practical denim overalls:
This gardening outfit in a floral print looks as short as a normal 1930’s skirt, but has a bib-and-straps top:
Hollywood patterns issued a similar overall pattern, #734 (ostensibly for Joan Blondell) in 1934. Click here to see it.
This undated Anne Adams sewing pattern is both practical and more feminine than man’s overalls, with its heart-shaped front and a shorter playsuit option.
More overall patterns from the thirties and forties can be found at the Commercial Pattern Archives; click here for Simplicity #3322 from 1940.
These female welders, working at a shipyard in Brooklyn during the second world war, are wearing man-styled heavy denim bib overalls.
At the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond, California, where many women like these “Rosies” worked, a record 747 warships were “completed in two-thirds the amount of time and at a quarter of the cost of the average of all other shipyards.” These women were not playing. You can visit the Rosie the Riveter National Park in Richmond, or online.