Welcome to Men's Week, Day 3!
Yesterday I presented the Pajama Problem faced by illustrators of the past: what to do when a men's nightwear pattern had two views? How to explain two men in PJs together? Usually an array of props -- golf clubs, memos, etc -- presented the event as an odd nighttime business meeting.
But sometimes, the Pajama Problem was just too much. Here in Simplicity 2289 (circa 1930s), I can feel the illustrator's terror rising right off the page. "No! No! Just because it's two men in pajamas doesn't mean they have to look (whispered voice) gay." And yet in trying so hard NOT to do that, the artist came up with something that seemed to betray his or her worst fears. Stripes has shoulders so wide he makes Tan look femme by comparison, and Tan clutches the clock as if he's washing dishes. In fact, Tan's lips are almost red:
The illustrator for Simplicity 1617 (late 1930s), on the other hand, seems to have suffered a nervous breakdown at the prospect of showing (gasp!) two men in pajamas together. Take a look:
It's as if his or her neurons just misfired all at once. "Two men in pajamas -- does not compute! Too bizarre to contemplate!" Green Trim with his villainous mustache clutches a book (with that freakishly long finger!) in one hand, but what's he hiding behind his back? And what's happened to poor Stripes? Dear God, his hands are different colors and he's MISSING AN EYE! But he's better off than Back View, who is not only missing a right forearm but his entire head. This isn't a pattern illustration, nor is it simply two men in pajamas -- it's a scene from a horror movie!
You may think there's an obvious solution to the Pajama Problem: throw a woman or two into the mix. Nope, that presents its own problems. Two men, one woman? Two men, two women? Why are all of them in PJs together? As far as I can tell, pattern illustrators didn't try this one out until the advent of the sexual revolution, with some particularly humorous results.
Here's McCall's 2218 from 1969. Three Hefner-esque guys and one woman -- and they actually wrote "Quickie" on the pattern?
Even better: Butterick 4158 from the early 1970s. Looks like Mustache lost out tonight -- and don't tell me the illustrator didn't know there was a suggestion of that!
Do you have any examples of The Pajama Problem? Send 'em to me, I'd love to post them!