Nightdress is typically synonymous with nightgown and both terms refer to sleeping wear for women that take the form of simple to complex dresses.
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Other terms that have been used in place of nightdress include peignoir and negligee, though these terms often reference fancier nightdresses that might be worn for seductive rather than sleeping purposes. Contrasted to nightgown is the term nightshirt, which is often a straight long gown worn by men, though many women enjoy wearing nightshirts too.
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Significant variety exists in what may be deemed a nightdress. Anything from heavy flannel flowing gowns that are floor length to skimpy polyester or silk gowns might qualify. The unifying factor tends to be that these are most often worn to bed, which has not always been a common practice. For women a nightdress has the advantage of adding a bit more modesty, if getting up in the middle of the night is necessary, and it can additionally provide some warmth while sleeping.
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With the advent of fabrics like polyester, nightdress styles diverged. While it was still easy to find cotton flannel gowns, polyester negligees became especially popular, and these had a more dress-like cut, often featuring no sleeves and an empire waist. Fabrics like polyester could be warm, and some manufacturers returned to cotton, especially making gowns of cotton knit. Knee length gowns with tank top sleeves became popular, or some manufacturers designed even shorter dresses, worn with shorts or panties.
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Today, nightdress style remains diverse and women can find anything from cotton flannel classics to polyester peignoirs. Length of gowns varies with each maker, with knee length or slightly above the knee being the most popular styles. A few manufacturers specialize in what might be considered classic nightdresses.
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