Dressing gowns, tracksuits … the interior wardrobe, a whole story

What dress code for teleworking? The faculty has not yet established it. One certainty, however: synonymous with comfort (if not relaxation), the elements of the interior locker room are in pole position. And each has its story.

Pajamas, from fantasy to relaxation

It was in India that Europeans discovered the «Pae jama», “Leg garment” whose use dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Loose, attached by a small cord, accompanied by its tunic, the pajamas are a traditional piece of the oriental wardrobe worn everyday. It is synonymous with exoticism, lasciviousness, laziness and hot nights in the West. Traders see an opportunity and fill the holds of ships with it.

In Europe, pajamas are initially confined to the male wardrobe, because by dissociating the legs, it emphasizes the eroticism of the crotch. Only a disrespectful woman, transvestite or prostitute, wears pants. In the XVIIe century, in the male wardrobe of the well-to-do classes, pajamas became a symbol of high status, knowledge of the world and erudition. Then he turns into a caricature of a fantasized East, rich, golden, embroidered and shimmering, in fancy dress parties.

Around 1870, British settlers adopted pajamas as an alternative to the traditional shirt. Europeanized in the form of trousers and a matching jacket, in flannel or madras, it loses most of its exotic codes. In mail order catalogs, pajamas became the symbol of Western modernity adapted to working life. In 1902, a Sears advertisement indicated that it was “Just what you need to travel, because its appearance allows more freedom than the usual nightgowns”.

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In France, from 1911, Poiret transformed the pajamas into an elegant alternative to the tea dress. It is now worn day and night. But it was at the end of the First World War that he really integrated the women’s wardrobe. The androgynous fashion of the 20s popularized the piece, with shapes, materials and embellishments that differentiated the wardrobes of both sexes. Those of the women are in silk or rayon, sporting brightly colored prints and ribbons.

Chanel imposes the “beach pajamas”, practical and comfortable, which quickly become “evening pajamas” during informal meals. In 1934, in New York-Miami (It Happened One Night), Claudette Colbert caused a sensation by wearing the same model as Clark Gable. But it was a Russian aristocrat emigrated to Rome, Irene Galitzine, who made it a must in 1960. In silk, the legs widened, embellished with pearls and fringes, halfway between negligee and daywear, the “palazzo ”Becomes the synonym of Italian chic, worn by Sophia Loren and Jackie Kennedy.

The tracksuit, the gift of sport

The origins of sportswear go back to the 18th century.e century. It was first of all the wealthy English classes who adopted more comfortable jackets for riding. And, in the following century, the French espouse this more convenient style. Then, the industrial revolution made it possible to manufacture parts accessible to the lower classes. The rise of sport and leisure has further modified this wardrobe: the pants are enlarged and the shirt is replaced by a sweatshirt which leaves movement free.

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The athletic culture of university colleges, international sports competitions and the military took hold of the tracksuit. It dresses the competitor, allows him to perform. The expansion of ranges to XXe century, with shorts, tank top or hooded sweater, further facilitates body movements in a competitive situation. And the “tracksuit” quickly took to the streets, synonymous with relaxation and cool. Ideal for slipping at home but now available by all brands up to luxury, it is all-terrain, including non-sporty.

The dressing gown, friend of letters

Subtle in the oriental cloakroom in the 17the century, the cotton dressing gown is essential among the European wealthy classes. In 1768, Denis Diderot even devoted an essay to it: Regrets about my old dressing gown. The philosopher declares his unconditional love for his companion in labor, his “Guenille” who left his movements free, while his new dress, too rigid, the “Mannequin”. And to describe the novelty ravaging its creativity. The dressing gown then becomes a synonym of erudition, it is dressed to welcome visitors.

Hugo Hefner à Los Angeles in 2006. Photo Hector Mata. AFP

In XXe century, Japonism brought up to date the piece whose style is similar to the kimono. It becomes a night garment or is worn as a coat. With Hugh Hefner, boss of the magazine Playboy, the silk dressing gown is sexualized, synonymous with lush idleness and alcove play.

The socks, the decorated foot

Archeology shows that socks have been used to protect the feet for several millennia, but it was Hesiod who voted for them from the VIIIe century BC In Works and Days, the poet advises to wear them with sandals. In animal hair, they provide warmth and comfort. As for the Christian saints, they are decked out in «putees», symbols of purity. Socks protect against the harsh climate and limit the exposure of the toes, considered indecent by the early Christian Church. They therefore know their heyday in the Middle Ages.

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Tight, brightly colored, held by garters, high and therefore spectacular, socks become the attribute of high status. Technology and the industrial revolution have made them accessible to everyone. Comfortable, protective, they are opposed to the foot corset that is the shoe that accompanies urbanity and journeys. And now, they occupy entire shelves, are available from the thickest to the thinnest, they can be worn with stilettos as well as to laze on the sofa.


Audrey Patrizia Millet, luxury and fashion historian

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