Hot! The ‘Deco Mermaid’ beach pyjamas

If these beach pyjamas look slightly familiar – it’s because they are. You’ve actually seen a previous iteration of them with my ‘Deco Echo’ blouse back in February. By previous iteration I mean ‘something that I’m terribly ashamed to admit was held on with safety pins’.

Yeah. I confess. I was so rushed in the run-up to Art Deco weekend that I didn’t manage to get the everything remotely properly finished, and these were one of the items that were terribly put together, terribly badly finished, and just not OK. (see example below)

But with the 20s/30s/ challenge and a trip home to Hawai’i coming up I had the perfect opportunity to actually make these properly.

My inspiration for the garment and the look was the beach pyjamas that were so popular at beach resorts in the 1920s & 30s. They are such an elegant, practical garment, but not what anyone expects.

My first set of beach pyjama bottoms went wrong because of an under-abundance of time and an over-abundance of engineering. I tried to include a high-waisted un-darted yolk with piping trim, side pockets, a fancy side placket fastening, period-accurate hook fastenings, a symmetrical, direction print, and french seams all into one garment. I also used the wrong interfacing because I didn’t have the right stuff to hand. Not surprisingly (like the camel with too many straws) the pants rebelled.

The yoke didn’t sit right on my bottom and gaped around my waist, the piping had to be re-done a half dozen times to be symmetrical, the yoke-facing ended up only facing half the yoke, the pockets gaped and getting them to meet the french seams was a nightmare, and the placket was a ridiculous mess. It needed fixing.

For my re-make I took the pants apart apart, ditched the pockets and the fancy side placket, set sun-burst darts into my yoke to make it sit properly on my way-curvier than the ’30s ideal bottom, re-did the yoke facing and a lot of the piping, and re-set the whole thing with a nice, simple, still-period-accurate side fastening.

Whew! Much better! I’m now proud to wear these, and they are a joy to wear. So light and comfortable in the Hawaiian summer, while looking elegant and dressed up.

Isn’t the fabric fabulous? It turned up at a fabric sale in NZ, and I immediately snapped it up with Art Deco visions dancing in front of my eyes. I wish I’d got more! The print reminds me of scales from a distance – hence the ‘Deco Mermaid’ title.

Unfortunately my pants still have two problems – I got turned around sewing the hooks and loops into the placket, and I sewed them on to the wrong sides (hooks to back, loops to front instead of the other way around). Gah! I’m going to have to re-do that.

On the bright side, I need to show you where I sat to sew the unfortunately facing hooks and eyes:

It almost makes it all better, doesn’t it?  ;-) Those are the woods around my parents house: not landscaped or anything.  The dress I’m wearing in that picture is one I made when I was about 14.  It still fits!

The other problem is that the pants simply don’t fit. I took these photos after two weeks in Hawaii, eating my parents incredibly healthy diet, and running around doing farm chores every day. I’ve dropped a full size. I’m not sure if I want to fix that ;-)

The photos were taken by my Mum at a beach near the family farm. I wanted to capture both my island as it is now, and the sense of old Hawaiian postcards in my images. The latter was inadvertently helped by my Mum – she forgot her glasses so couldn’t see to get the images in focus!


Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. Love the pj’s cute.. And the woods around your moms house is beautiful.. What a pretty place to live.. Have fun..

  2. Wow, you managed to upload pics from Hawaii although your parents “live down the earthworm tunnel, under the rock, behind the bush, in the sticks, that are at the end of the road dirt road three miles past the boonies” and you need a book so you don’t get bored while waiting for html pages to load…Love those pants. They remind me of wide rayon pants I used to wear when I was 20. They are still in my closet but I am afraid they don’t fit anymore. Obviously, I need to visit your parents and do a few farm chores (and maybe also pose next to some banana plants…). The fabric is pretty indeed and those photos look so vintage (Thanks, glass-less Leimomi-Mom!) The area there looks wonderful(in the photo where you’re standing on the rock, is that another island in the distance?) Soooo beautiful. Have fun! :)

    • Yes I did! I had to go into town (town is hot, dusty, mainly boring, and an hours drive) for internet that was fast enough get this post up, but I did it! Yay for Sew Weekly!

      The island behind me in some of the photos is Maui – I’m on Moloka’i.

  3. PS: Loved the part with the over-abundance of engineering. I can’t believe you tried to squeeze all this into one garment. You are a brave woman.

  4. Very lovely! I like that fabric and the pants look great! Kudos to fixing them and being able to wear them on the beach for such a picturesque photoshoot. Enjoy your summer!

  5. ‘The other problem is that the pants simply don’t fit’- that made me smile!

    • That one makes me smile as well – and grimace in frustration too. I was perfectly happy with my weight before, but I’m still totally healthy a dress size smaller, and I’m getting to the age where it doesn’t stay off as easy, so perhaps I should try to keep it off, but then I’d have to alter so many of my clothes, etc. etc. Gah!

  6. What gorgeous photos! Love the fabric print. I’m coming around to the idea of beach pajamas– thanks for doing your part to convince me. Of course you did the historically accurate hook and eye closure!

    • Thank you! It took me a while to accept the beach pyjama idea too, but once I made a pair I was hooked. They are so comfortable when its hot!

      I have a confession about the closure. When I first re-did the pants I put in an invisible zip, and before I’d even finished sewing it in it broke, and to me that was a sign they needed to be done right!

  7. Those pants are so fun! I love the pictures too. Woo-Hoo for vacations that cause weight loss, those are the best ones.

  8. Ahh, lovely photos, so dreamy. The print looks totally different close up – might have to check your blog to see if there are any other close ups. Soak up that Hawaiian warmpth…