Everyone knows that a babydoll is a short, loose fitting nightgown or negligee intended as nightwear. Or it was when it was first made popular by the 1956 film Baby Doll. Back then it was made of nylon, chiffon or lace (silk if you were very rich) with a variety of trimmings such as lace, ribbons, ruffles or fur to make it a sexy confection to entice the man in your life into your bed.
It is now a highly eroticized piece of adult apparel, often labelled as a form of lingerie and sometimes fetish. They are shorter, thereby fully exposing your legs, and sometimes emphasize or deliberately expose the boobs as well. It is often sold as a set with matching panties or thong, as a typical babydoll is short enough that your underwear is visible (if you are wearing any). Styles of the same general length but not intended to emphasize their sexiness are sometimes called shortie nighties.
The fabrics are different now too – the old look of the 50s has been replaced by the modern leather, pvc and lace. (Nika) The modern pvc is far better than the stiff and uncomfortable board-like fabrics of years ago although the cheaper ranges have a much shorter shelf-life than their more sophisticated cousins. A French designed and manufactured stretchy version has come over to the UK in the form of Patrice Catanzaro’s collections and to date I cannot beat it for wearability and breathability (most unusual for pvc). It is truly the best I can find.
Colours have changed from white and pastel shades to black, grey and red giving a whole new look and feel to the word babydoll PVC. This is echoed by the “Kinderwhore” look during the early-to-mid 1990s due to the popularity of Riot Grrrl and Grunge performers like Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland who took to wearing babydolls with ripped jeans and ‘bovver boots’ with heavy dark makeup and messy hair. How our grandmothers would have turned in their graves!