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Title: Pajamas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Blanket sleeper, Nightwear, Leotard, Nightgown, Clothing
Collection: Children's Clothing, History of Asian Clothing, History of Clothing (Western Fashion), History of Fashion, Nightwear, Suits (Clothing)
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"Pyjama" redirects here. For other meanings of "pyjama" or "pajama" or similar see Pajamas.
A Muslim girl in India wearing pajamas and kurti (lithograph from Emily Eden's Portraits of the Princes and People of India, 1844)

Pajamas American English, spelled pyjamas British English, often shortened to PJs, jimmies, jimjams or jammies, can refer to several related types of clothing. Pajamas are loose-fitting, two-piece garments derived from the original garment and worn chiefly for sleeping,[1] but sometimes also for lounging,[2] also by both genders.[3] More generally, pajamas may refer to several garments, for both daywear and nightwear, derived from traditional pajamas and involving variations of style and material.

The word pyjama [4] was incorporated into the English language via the British Empire from c. 1800 through the Hindustani pajāmā, itself from the Persian word pāy-jāmeh (پايجامه lit. "leg-garment"). The original pyjāmā are loose, lightweight trousers fitted with drawstring waistbands worn by Muslims in India and adopted by Europeans there.[5]


  • History 1
  • Types of pyjamas 2
    • Traditional 2.1
    • Contemporary 2.2
    • Daywear 2.3
  • Material 3
  • Designs and patterns 4
  • Custom 5
  • Wearing pajamas in public 6
  • References in popular culture 7
  • Gallery 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The word pyjama was incorporated into the English language via Hindustani. The word originally derives from Persian پايجامه pāyjāmeh meaning 'leg-garment'. The word originally referred to loose trousers tied around the waist.

The worldwide use of pajamas (the word and the garment) is the result of British presence in India in the 18th and 19th centuries, and British influence on the wider Western world during the Victorian era. Pajamas had been introduced to England as "lounging attire" as early as the 17th century, then known as mogul's breeches (Beaumont and Fletcher) but they soon fell out of fashion again. The word pajama (as pai jamahs, Paee-jams and variants) is recorded in English use in the first half of the 19th century, but they only become a fashion in Britain and the Western world as a sleeping attire for men in the Victorian period, from about 1870.[6]

Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases (1886) summarizes the state of usage at the time (s.v. "pyjammas"):

Types of pyjamas


Traditional pajamas consist of a jacket-and-trousers combination made of soft fabric, such as flannel;[8] The jacket element usually has a placket front and its sleeves have no cuffs.[9] For a number of reasons (increased freedom of movement, aesthetic appeal, etc.) many men opt to sleep or lounge barechested in just the pajama trousers.

In colloquial speech, these traditional pajamas are often called PJs, jim jams, or jammies;[10] while in South Asia and South Africa, they are sometimes referred to as night suits.

Some pajamas feature a drop seat (also known as a trap door or butt flap): a buttoned opening in the seat, designed to allow the wearer to conveniently use a toilet. Drop seats were very common on pajamas made before the 1950s, but today they are rather rare.


Contemporary pajamas are derived from traditional pajamas. There are many variations in style such as short sleeve pajamas,[11] pajama bottoms of varying length,[12] or, on occasion, one-piece pyjamas,[13] and pajamas incorporating various materials.

Chiefly in the US, stretch-knit sleep apparel with rib-knit trimmings are common. Usually worn by children, these garments often have pullover tops (if two-piece) or have zippers down the fronts (if one-piece), and may also be footed.

Although pajamas are usually distinguished from non-bifurcated sleeping garments such as nightgowns, in the US, they can sometimes include the latter, as in babydoll pyjamas.[14]


Pajamas may today refer to women's combination daywear, especially in the US where they became popular in the early 20th century, consisting of short-sleeved or sleeveless blouses and lightweight trousers. Examples of these include capri pajamas, beach pajamas, and hostess pajamas.[15]


Pajamas are usually loose fitting and designed for comfort, using soft materials such as cotton or the more luxurious silk or satin. Synthetic materials such as polyester and Lycra are also available.

Designs and patterns

Pajamas often contain visual references to a thing that may hold some special appeal to the wearer. Images of sports, animals, balloons, polka dots, flowers, stripes, plaids, foulards, paisleys and other motifs may all be used to decorate them. Pajamas may also be found in plainer designs, such as plaid or plain gray, but when worn in public, they are usually designed in such a way that makes their identity unambiguous. Older styles of children's Panamas have been depicted as having a square button-up flap covering the buttocks.


Pajamas are often worn with bare feet and sometimes without underwear. They are often worn as comfort wear even when not in bed.

Wearing pajamas in public

Some people wear pajamas in public, for convenience or as a fashion statement.[16][17]

In 2006 the gulf state of UAE banned local government workers from wearing pajamas to work.[18]

The Tesco supermarket in St Mellons, Cardiff, United Kingdom started a ban on customers wearing pajamas in January 2010.[19]

In January 2012, a local Dublin branch of the Government's Department of Social Protection advised that pajamas were not regarded as appropriate attire when attending the office for welfare services.[20]

In January 2012, Michael Williams, a commissioner in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, proposed an ordinance prohibiting people from wearing pajamas in public. Caddo Parish already has a law against wearing sagging pants below the waist, but Williams is pushing for a law against pajama pants after seeing a group of young men wearing loose fitting pajama pants that were about to show their private parts. According to Williams, "The moral fiber in our community is dwindling. If not now, when? Because it's pajama pants today, next it will be underwear tomorrow.” [21][22]

Williams’ concerns are reflected in many school and work dress codes. Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vermont, banned pajamas in 2011, concerned that they could be a safety hazard.[23]

References in popular culture

  • Author Lucy Maud Montgomery, touches upon how pajamas were viewed by the Canadian provincial culture in her 1931 novel, A Tangled Web: "The night before, as he was sitting on his bed, studying if there were any way to wheedle the secret out of Dandy Dark, he had absently put both feet into one pajama leg. Then when he stood up he fell on the floor in what his terrified wife at first thought was a fit. Very few of the clan sympathized with him as to his resulting shoulder. They thought it served him right for wearing new-fangled duds. If he had had a proper nightshirt on it couldn't have happened."[24]
  • The Pajama Game was a Broadway musical and film highlighting workers at a pajama factory.
  • Pajamas played a prominent role on a popular kids television show known as Bananas in Pyjamas. The show detailed the adventures of two bananas while wearing their pajamas.
  • Pajamas Media is an online advertising and publishing company created by bloggers Roger L. Simon and Charles Johnson. The term derives from CNN president Jonathan Klein's 2004 dismissal of bloggers as "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas".[25]
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2006 novel about a Jewish boy in a concentration camp, written from the perspective of an innocent son of the camp's commander who befriends him. The commander's son at first believes that the Jew's striped clothes are pajamas, hence the name of the book.
  • In the 1944 Sherlock Holmes film The Spider Woman, several 'pajama suicides' turn out to be murders, which he solves.


See also


  1. ^ "'Moe' with owners James Davis & wife, in bed in children's pajamas, at home.", Life magazine, 1971, (Photographer: Ralph Crane).
  2. ^ "Model clad in lounging pyjamas featuring peg-top trousers like jodpurs for sale at Neiman Marcus" Life magazine, 1939, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt)
  3. ^ "Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos playing native Brazilian folk instrument from his collection, while wearing jacket over his pajamas & smoking cigarette; at home." Life magazine, 1945 (Photographer: Unknown; Location: Rio De Janeiro)
  4. ^
  5. ^ PyjamaDictionary Meaning: ; TheFreeDictionary; Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedia; cf. The Oxford English Dictionary. 1989 edition. Oxford University Press. Oxford and London.
  6. ^ Lewis, Ivor. 1991. Sahibs, Nabobs and Boxwallahs: A Dictionary of Words of Anglo-India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 266 pages. ISBN 0-19-564223-6. "They were introduced in England as lounging attire in the 17th century but soon went out of fashion. About 1870 they reappeared in the Western world as sleeping attire for men, after returning British colonials brought (them) back ...." Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 29, 2006, from: Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  7. ^ Yule, Henry and A.C. Burnell, Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases (1886), s.v. Pyjammas, p. 748. Hobson-Jobson glosses "white ants" as "The insect (Termes bellicosus of naturalists) not properly an ant, of whose destructive powers there are in India so many disagreeable experiences, and so many marvellous stories."
  8. ^ "Girl sitting on bed and wearing striped flannel pajamas and Donald Duck slippers." Life magazine, December 1949, (Photographer: Nina Leen).
  9. ^ "Millionaire Charles Ponzi posing for photograph in pajamas." Life magazine, 1942, (Photographer: Hart Preston).
  10. ^ "Three college students wearing their PJs and playing in the bunk bed of their dorm room during rush week at the University of Illinois." Life magazine, September 1956 (Photographer: Grey Villet).
  11. ^ "Model wearing cotton-crepe pajamas." Life magazine, 1939, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt).
  12. ^ "Harriet Traynham (R) and her guests still wearing their pyjamas at 3:15 pm," Life magazine, August 1951 (Phtographer: Lisa Larsen)
  13. ^ "Actress Dorothy McGuire doing morning exercises wearing silk pajamas." Life magazine, 1941, (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt)
  14. ^ "Cynthia Brooks standing with her mother who is making alterations on her 'baby doll' pyjamas." Life magazine, March 1957, (Photographer: Peter Stackpole).
  15. ^ "Czech model posing in hostess pyjamas." Life magazine, 19]9-;liop[-;pi[l;op68, (Photographer: Bill Ray)
  16. ^ "Now they're shopping in pyjamas in Shanghai!" Liverpool Echo, 17 January 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Louisiana Official Moves to Ban Wearing Pyjamas in Public" Courtney Subramanian. Retrieved April 15, 2012
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Vt. high school dress code now bans pyjamas" Retrieved on April 15, 2012
  24. ^
  25. ^ Three Political Web Logs Make a Run for the Mainstream, Roderick Boyd, The New York Sun, May 3, 2005. Accessdate: April 16, 2008.

External links

  • Gao Yubin, The Pyjama Game Closes in Shanghai. New York Times. May 14, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2010.
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