Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125b

Nightshirt

1874 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Nightshirts changed very little in shape and style throughout the 19th century. They had a plain turned-down collar and were buttoned at the neck, and the centre opening extended a long way down the front. They usually had slits up the side, often reinforced with gussets, to facilitate ease of movement. They were made of cotton, lawn or linen.

Ownership & Use
It is very easy to confuse a nightshirt with a man's shirt, as these also tended to be long. Until the middle of the 19th century nightshirts were often worn together with a nightcap. By the 1860s these had gone out of fashion for the younger generation.

Time
During the 1880s pyjamas began to replace the nightshirt. Pyjamas originated in India. The outfit consisted of a jacket and trousers made of wool or silk in various colours and often striped. By the 1890s the nightshirt was so out of fashion that the Tailor and Cutter of 1897 reported:

'The doom of the sleeping shirt is written. Those possessed of any ought to preserve them carefully so that they can show to succeeding generations the wonderfully and fearfully made garments their forefathers slept in ... The pyjama sleeping suit is to take its place ... of oriental origin, of silks, etc., generally striped.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cotton, with pearl and cotton-covered buttons, hand- and machine-sewn
Brief Description
Man's nightshirt
Physical Description
This cotton nightshirt is a longer version of a man's shirt. It has a small stand collar fastened with a pearl button, a front placket closed with one buttons and cuffs each fastened with a button. In addition it has slits up each side to allow for ease of movement. These were often reinforced with gussets. This nightshirt is marked in ink with the wearers name. This helped maids and laundresses identify them when doing the laundry. The marking was either done in ink using a slanting, Italian style of writing, or embroidered in silk thread.
Dimensions
  • Length: 115cm
  • Shoulder to shoulder width: 76cm
Marks and Inscriptions
R. McAntrim 1874 (towards the bottom of the garment; handwriting; ink)
Gallery Label
Nightshirts were often simply a longer version of a shirt. They were sometimes marked with the wearer's name or initials. This helped maids and laundresses to identify them. The marking was either done in ink using a slanting, italic style of writing, or embroidered in silk thread.(03/02/2000)
Object history
Purchased from Mr Mark Wallis



Historical significance: This is a very good example of a nineteenth century nightshirt which will add significantly to the collection of men's dress. It is finely sewn and is in pristine condition. It is particularly important as there are no other examples of men's nightshirts dating fromthe second half of the century in the collection. It fills a vital gap in the portrayal of a gentleman's wardrobe. It also complements the nightgowns belonging to Mr Coutts which date from the 1820s, showing how little the basic construction of this item of dress had changed in over fifty years. For this reason the fact that it is signed and dated is also very important.
Historical context
Nightshirts changed very little in shape and style throughout the 19th century. They had a plain turned-down collar and were buttoned at the neck, and the centre opening extended a long way down the front. They usually had slits up the side, often reinforced with gussets, to facilitate ease of movement. They were made of cotton, lawn or linen.



Ownership & Use

It is very easy to confuse a nightshirt with a man's shirt, as these also tended to be long. Until the middle of the 19th century nightshirts were often worn together with a nightcap. By the 1860s these had gone out of fashion for the younger generation.



Time

During the 1880s pyjamas began to replace the nightshirt. Pyjamas originated in India. The outfit consisted of a jacket and trousers made of wool or silk in various colours and often striped. By the 1890s the nightshirt was so out of fashion that the Tailor and Cutter of 1897 reported:



'The doom of the sleeping shirt is written. Those possessed of any ought to preserve them carefully so that they can show to succeeding generations the wonderfully and fearfully made garments their forefathers slept in ... The pyjama sleeping suit is to take its place ... of oriental origin, of silks, etc., generally striped.'
Production
Worn by R. McAntrim
Association
Summary
Object Type
Nightshirts changed very little in shape and style throughout the 19th century. They had a plain turned-down collar and were buttoned at the neck, and the centre opening extended a long way down the front. They usually had slits up the side, often reinforced with gussets, to facilitate ease of movement. They were made of cotton, lawn or linen.

Ownership & Use
It is very easy to confuse a nightshirt with a man's shirt, as these also tended to be long. Until the middle of the 19th century nightshirts were often worn together with a nightcap. By the 1860s these had gone out of fashion for the younger generation.

Time
During the 1880s pyjamas began to replace the nightshirt. Pyjamas originated in India. The outfit consisted of a jacket and trousers made of wool or silk in various colours and often striped. By the 1890s the nightshirt was so out of fashion that the Tailor and Cutter of 1897 reported:

'The doom of the sleeping shirt is written. Those possessed of any ought to preserve them carefully so that they can show to succeeding generations the wonderfully and fearfully made garments their forefathers slept in ... The pyjama sleeping suit is to take its place ... of oriental origin, of silks, etc., generally striped.'
Collection
Accession Number
T.594-1999

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record createdNovember 28, 2001
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