Negligée: from the French: négligé, meaning “neglected” or “careless”
a woman’s long flowing usually sheer dressing gown
carelessly informal or incomplete attire
Now we know Negligées to be sheer, silky, sultry but they didn’t start out this way;
Nonchalant: The stiff formality of lady-wear took on a looser form around the time of the Restoration of Charles II to the British throne (1660), these flowing gowns were often referred to as negligées as in “studied negligence.”
Cat-Nap: Seventeenth-century corset wearing women wore informal gowns, usually made of a soft, sheer fabric, at home. Particularly during the rest period after lunch – a welcome break in the day from their restricting dress.
Night-time: Then the negligee became a form of nightgown intended for wear at night and in the bedroom. It was introduced in France in the 18th century, where it mimicked the heavy head-to-toe style of women’s day dresses of the time.
In the 20th century, the negligée underwent significant change and became immensely popular in most of the Western world.
No-frills: In the 1920s, the corset was out, replaced by loose, low-waisted dresses. And so the negligee began to imitate this simpler style; a single layered garment made of silk, similar to a woman’s full slip. More revealing than 18th century French nightgowns, it was more pretty than erotic.
Naughty: As the century progressed, societal conventions and norms relaxed. Then came the pin-up girls of the 1940s; often featured in a revealing nightwear, the négligée lost it’s innocence forever.
Nearly-nude: After World War II nightwear changed from being primarily utilitarian to being primarily sensual; translucent bodices, lace trimming, bows, see-through clothing for women consisting of a sheer usually long dressing gown – what the French call, déshabillé.
A look loved by 1950s actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Carroll Baker and Cleo Moore
Nylon: The introduction of synthetic fabrics such as nylon (and later its more refined successors) enabled the mass production of the negligée. From the 1940s to the 1970s, the trend was for negligees to become shorter in length (e.g. the babydoll of the 1970s), collect one if you can.
Notorious: Kate Middleton’s strut for charity in a handmade negligee won the heart of Prince William – allegedly. The ‘dress’ sold for £65,000 in 2011.
So ladies – whatever you’re preferred style – long, short, lace or silk – never underestimate the power of a negligée!
Featured image: Sophia Loren, Marriage Italian Style (1964)