Nightwear through the ages - from rough linen to silky negligees

Woman wearing a nightdress

What A Fashionable Lady Wore In Bed

Did you know that the first recorded reference to a nightgown for women was in the play " The Oracle of Delphi" which was written by Thomas Morton in 1623? Or that there are records dating back to the 14th century of women wearing a loose shift or chemise to bed? Or that nightgowns have been documented in art, literature, and fashion for centuries?

That’s right, throughout history nightwear for women has evolved from a loose-fitting chemise to sexy lace designs. This article explores the history of nightwear and explains why it's one of the most important garments to any woman's wardrobe.

The History of Nightwear for Women: From Ancient Times to the Renaissance

Ancient civilizations such as Ancient Greece and Rome did not have designated nightwear. They typically wore loose-fitting tunics, which were open-backed. These were often made of linen or wool (a bit scratchy no doubt, with or without fleas) and were sometimes decorated with intricate embroidery. Wealthier women were also known to wear silk nightgowns and robes.

Around the Renaissance, nightwear was predominantly worn by women who were of high class. It was a form of luxury, since it was made of silk or a luxurious material. They were long and loose-fitting, with sleeves that reached to the wrists.

These robes were often held together with a sash or cord, and women wore them not only for sleeping, but also for lounging around the house, and for breastfeeding their child.

1700s: The Renaissance & Early 1800s

During the 1700s, nightgowns for women became shorter and more fitted than the loose-fitting robes worn in earlier periods. During the early 18th century, an extremely modest and utilitarian type of nightwear called a bedgown was the standard item of clothing for women while they slept, though the term “nightgown” at the time referred to a loose-fitting garment that was worn by both men and women. These nightgown or bedgown garments were made of thick fabric designed to keep out cold air. They were intended to be loose-fitting so that they would not constrict the wearer’s breathing as would a tight-fitting garment. These nightgowns were therefore fairly shapeless garments that were sometimes made from coarse fabrics such as flannel.

1900s – 1940s: Fluffy Ruffles and Romantic Lace

As the 20th century rolled around, nightwear for women took on a much more feminine and delicate aesthetic. Fabrics like lace and chiffon, which were frequently used in lingerie, were also repurposed for nightgowns. Ruffles and other decorative embellishments were also extremely popular during this time.

Ornate patterns and designs were a common theme, with floral designs being particularly popular. As with most clothing trends of the time, nightwear for women was more revealing. Nightgowns, then, were typically short and had loose, billowing sleeves.

By the mid-1930s, the modest flapper style began gaining popularity. The loose and feminine look of the previous decade was tossed out in favor of a more tailored and streamlined aesthetic.

1950s - 1980s: Bright Colors, Shapes and Prints

The 1950s were characterized by two main trends: Bright colors and shapes and prints. During this decade, nightwear for women was typically made out of satin or silk, and featured a plethora of floral patterns. Most nightgowns were knee-length, but shorter styles were also common. By the end of the 1960s, slight variations of the 1950s-style nightgown were still common. However, by the end of the 1970s, short and flowery had been replaced by long and loose. These garments were frequently made from velour or terry cloth fabrics. During the 1970s, women’s nightwear became even more colorful. It was also during this time that many women stopped wearing a nightgown or robe and instead slept in just their underwear. Some women also started wearing a T-shirt or long underwear as a nightgown.

During the 1980s, there was a swing towards brightly colored garments. Brightly colored nightgowns were frequently worn with equally colorful pajamas.

1990 - Present Day: Sexy Back and Bow Details

In the 1990s, some women revived the long nightgown, while others wore short nightgowns with a robe or nightshirt. During this time period, many women also started wearing pyjama bottoms and tops together.

In the 2000s, women’s nightwear evolved once again. However, this time it became more provocative. Many women wore a short nightgown or a long robe with a buttoned-up top. However, some women also started wearing a negligee, which is a long, loose-fitting garment with a low-cut top.

Nightwear from this period often featured a low-cut back with lacy or decorative designs. Many pieces also included bows on the sleeves or a trim around the neckline.


Nightwear is one of the most important garments to any woman's wardrobe. It is a vital part of every woman’s daily life, helping to create a sense of comfort that allows you to properly rest and recharge. It's also a great way to enhance your sex appeal, as it allows you to show off your best assets.

The history of nightwear for women is one that has evolved over centuries. From long robes and nightdresses to negligees and pajamas, women’s nightwear has changed a lot over time. The next time you wear your favorite nightwear, take a moment to appreciate the long journey it took to get there.