Foreign origins of your wardrobe

Did you know that pajamas have an Eastern origin? The lower half of them, anyway. The European nightgown grew shorter in the 1700s, became a 'nightshirt,' then teamed up with loose-fitting harem pants from Persia. What other items in your closet have exotic pedigrees?

1. This rubberized footwear got its name from the heavy, midcalf-length sandals worn by the Gauls. (Hint: They were originally called 'Gaulish shoes.')

2. This straight, loose-fitting jacket with a stand-up collar worn by Chinese officials was popular among American students in the 1970s.

3. This thick, plaid shirt proved its worth to Canadian woodsmen in the 1940s.

4. From the port of Genoa, Italy, came sturdy work pants for sailors. In the United States, a version was made for gold miners that later became fashionable for all. Their name still betrays their origin.

5. This garment came from a popular island resort in the 1930s and '40s. Local law did not allow women to reveal their legs; hence these knee-length 'pants.'

6. In 1946, four days after the United States detonated a hydrogen bomb on a Pacific island, Paris designer Louis Réard was inspired to name his daring new swimsuit this.

7. A new kind of shirt came about when British polo players asked seamstresses to find a way to keep their untethered collars from flapping around. Two buttons eventually solved the problem.

8. This body-size piece of fabric originated in South America. It has an opening for the wearer's head and has been popular with baby boomers.

9. Worn by the British Royal Navy during World War II, this woolen coat is fastened with short wooden toggles that pass through loops. Surplus coats were sold after the war and soon became en vogue.

10. From the Hindi dungri, this bibbed garment was worn by male and female workers during both world wars. Denim ones were a hit in the 1950s.


(1) galoshes; (2) Nehru jacket with a Mandarin collar; (3) lumberjack shirt; (4) jeans; (5) Bermuda shorts; (6) bikini (named for the Bikini Atoll); (7) button-down shirt; (8) poncho; (9) duffel coat; (10) dungarees.

SOURCES: 'Who Put the Butter in Butterfly?' by David Feldman; 'Panati's Extraordinary Origins,' by Charles Panati; 'History of Men's Costume,' by Marion Sichel; 'History of Women's Costume,' by Marion Sichel; 'The Encyclopedia of Fashion,' by Georgina O'Hara.

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