Long before the word “pyjamas” was ever uttered, people wore nightgowns to bed. These garments have evolved; now, they’re more than just an article of clothing you slip on while sleeping. Here’s a look at how nighties have changed over the centuries.

A nightgown was a garment worn by men

You wouldn’t think that nightgowns and men would have an actual history. But looking back to the 1500s, you might see that they do.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that “nightgown” first appeared in 1575 to refer to the “shirt-like nightwear of the male sex”. In other words, men wore nightshirts, as well as women did. However, it wasn’t until much later that people started seeing them as feminine attire.

The word “nightgown” came about because it was first used for both men and women. It was initially meant to be any long robe or outer garment worn during bedtime that covered the neckline to mid-calf or ankle length (and sometimes even below).

Nightclothes of the past 

Nighties that were made in the past were opulent and time-consuming. The nightclothes was made from luxurious fabrics like satin, silk and lace. They were often embroidered with elaborate designs, which took an extraordinary amount of time to create. The high cost of these garments meant that only wealthy women could afford to own them.

One good thing about nightgowns from back then?

While it might be nice to have a corset for that extra support, wearing a nightgown with no stays has many benefits. Nightgowns from back then were incredibly comfortable because of this very reason. When you put on an old-fashioned nightgown, it was as easy as slipping on a t-shirt.

Plus, these nightgowns were also very easy to take off. Since there weren’t any buttons or laces holding them together like some modern lingerie has today. All you had to do was lift your gown and step out; no fussing around with hooks or clasps was required.

The Victorian Era brought in corsets for night time 

If you’re wondering why a woman would want to wear something uncomfortable, the corset made a woman’s waist look smaller, creating an hourglass figure. Corsets also represented wealth and status during this period because only wealthy women could afford them.

People didn’t sleep naked

The first nightgowns were made in the 16th century and were usually made of linen or cotton. They might have had a hoop skirt attached, but not all did. The chemise was worn under your clothes, so you would have something to sleep in at night if sheets didn’t cover your mattress.

By the 19th century, the fashion of wearing long nightgowns with hems that reached below your ankles was popularised by Queen Victoria (who also liked wearing scarves tied around her neck). From how fancy their nightgowns were, you could tell who was wealthy: some women wore lace-trimmed long johns. And again, these items of clothing weren’t meant for sleeping alone—they were still worn under other garments such as dresses or blouses during daytime hours.

By the early 20th century

Nightwear styles in the twentieth century included pyjamas, bed jackets, and lounging bloomers. The latter was a loose-fitting undergarment that allowed women to move around at home quickly. It soon became famous for sleeping in as well.


The gist of the matter is that clothing, styling and fashion all incept from some basic need, which should matter. The societal norms created to segregate classes and genders are pointless at best. Clothing style is a personal preference, and if someone from across genders likes to wear beautiful nighties, that’s precisely what they should do.



Muskan is author of the newly released Forever Love. She loves to travel and when she’s at home, she loves to be in front of or behind her computer. She is interested in mental health and educating others.
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