A Onesie History Lesson

Published on May 02, 2013 Comment(s): 1

Onesie - the name is aptly so. It provokes images of something that numbers in singularity. The onesie is a colloquial term for nightwear that is not separated into a top for the torso and a bottom for the limbs. It’s a full piece from head to toe.

We seem to take nightwear for granted. Kids are thought to ‘get into their pyjamas’ and off to bed. The etymology of pyjamas is an interesting one and seems to originate from India or Persia; either way they share the same origin - Sanskrit. The traditional pyjama was an Indian concept that required adults and kids to get out of their day work and play clothes, then change into sleepwear so that the hygiene of the bed is kept intact. 

The concept of night clothes gravitated from India in colonial times to Europe. When first arriving on the shores of Britain, the pyjama was a two-piece, soft trouser and top combination. In the winter it could be flannel; in the summer it was switched to something a little lighter.

As pyjamas caught on in popularity, it become an impetus for commercial endeavours which sought to develop variations of the pyjamas. So the onesies were born out of commerce and necessity. The term onesie is colloquial, as it represents that the garment is one piece, where the top half is joined to the bottom half. 

When the onesie caught on, people soon realized the best place for it was to replace the swaddle of an infant. The baby grew out of the safety of the swaddle and yearned for mobility and freedom; since two piece suits risked exposing the mid-section, the onesie was the perfect solution. A full body onesie would cover the neck and limbs all the way down to the ankles providing mobility, circulation and protection of the skin form bruises, cuts and bugs. Some even came with hoodies and booties to go along. That way it became a true head to toe solution. The only portion of the entire body that was then visible was the face. Babies, loved it.

Growing Up
For the purpose of convenience and to access the trunk, a trap door was included that made diaper changes easy and quick. This design, quickly made its way through the ages, and soon included onesies for older kids, teenagers, then on to adults. The trap door managed to make it in to all the ages as well, for obvious reasons.

Today, fashion has caught up with the humble and comfortable onesie. They come in an array of colours and materials - from flannel, to cotton, to silk and whatever else one can imagine. They come in even more colours and patterns. Some look like you are draped in a flag, others look like a starry night. The comfort is undeniable. Those who have ever donned an onesie will attest to that in no uncertain terms. The very name beckons a good slumber; the act of changing into one gets the night started.

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