They went to bed with their nightcaps on!
People today are tending to wear less and less in bed. But they still have some way to go before they return to the ways of the 14th century. Then, night clothes were unknown and both men and women slept naked. But by the time of Queen Elizabeth I separate garments were worn at night. Men wore long white nightshirts and women white smocks, similar in style to those worn by day.
In the days of the Cavaliers men added lace collars and cuffs and ruffled waists to their night shirts, and put on gaily embroidered nightcaps. It was during this period that women adopted colored silk nighties.
In the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign men’s nightgowns reached to their ankles and their nightcaps had colored tassels. Women’s nightdresses were also long with a frill round the neck, but around about 1860 the nightcap started to become unfashionable, and within ten years it had been abandoned by both sexes.
By the 1880s men’s nightgowns shortened to knee-length but by the Gay Nineties they were again ankle length. And at about this time pajamas made of heavy striped flannel began to appear.
Women’s nighties were gay, in all colors, often made of silk with lace trimmings, and ribbons around the waist. In the Edwardian period more men wore pajamas but the long nightshirt was still the usual garment.
Women’s gowns became sleeveless for the first time and made from flimsier and more ornamental fabric. With the First World War square necks appeared on nighties which often had long wide sleeves frilled at the wrists.
By the 1930s almost all men wore pajamas, mostly of cotton, while women had nighties made to fit the outline of the body and often transparent. Not much has changed since then although women’s night attire is flimsier than ever. And it is predicted that we may soon be making a return to the 14th century - that is sleeping naked!