Babydoll lingerie has become one of the most popular styles of intimate apparel in recent years, and for good reason. Babydolls are extremely comfortable, eclectic, alluring, and capable of complementing all body types, from the most slender to the most curvy. They can be found in a wide range of colors, styles, and fabrics, and they’re extremely affordable. In short, they exemplify the qualities that most women seek in a sexy intimate piece.
But babydoll lingerie wasn’t always the worldwide phenomenon that it is today, and in fact this unique fashion has quite a fascinating history. If you’re looking to explore the hottest babydolls from the world’s leading designers, we invite you to check out our wide selection at Smitten Lingerie. But if you’re curious to learn more about how this seductive style evolved from WWII-era nightgown to modern-day erotic essential, read on.
Born Out of Necessity
During the Second World War, America faced severe shortages of many of the day-to-day essentials that we now take for granted. Metals were in short supply as the military needed them for artillery; food and gasoline were rationed to ensure that everybody got their fair share; even car tires were hard to come by as a result of rubber shortages. But one of the most interesting and commonly overlooked aspects of war rationing was its effect on fashion. With 11 million Americans serving in the Armed Forces (all of whom needed uniforms), fabrics became scarce, and that forced clothing designers to develop new innovations that required less fabric.
Although Great Britain did ration fabrics during the war, the United States never reached that point. Nevertheless, the U.S. fashion industry took a huge hit as wool became scarce and silk became almost non-existent. Everyday Americans were encouraged to do their part by making their own clothing, and the professional clothing manufacturers had to rethink their styles. As a result, men’s suits became far less layered, and women’s fashions became sleeker and less dependent on superfluous frills.
As part of this effort to scale back on fabric usage, one leading designer took it upon herself to adapt the classic nightgown for the wartime generation. And so the babydoll was born. The original concept was extremely simple, especially when you consider the richness and complexity of today’s babydoll lingerie. The idea was simply to manufacture a super short nightgown that fell just below the waist, thereby requiring less fabric than traditional nighties. Though the new design was not a huge overnight success, it has evolved over the years to become a treasured staple of intimate apparel.
From Wartime Necessity to Style Necessity
The designer behind this soon-to-be legendary innovation was none other than Sylvia Pedlar, one of America’s foremost lingerie designers. Pedlar was the founder and chief designer for Iris Lingerie (1929-1970), and is perhaps best known for her early development of toga-style nightgowns, also referred to as bedside togas. Her work is so iconic that it continues to be showcased by the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her babydoll design sold well enough during and after the war, but it didn’t really catch on as a cultural phenomenon until 1956, when Warner Bros. released the hit film Baby Doll, starring Carroll Baker and written by Tennessee Williams.
In the film, Baker plays 19-year-old Baby Doll Meighan, a sexually curious virgin caught in the middle of a bitter Mississippi feud. In scenes throughout the film, she is shown wearing one of Sylvia Pedlar’s signature short nightgowns, and upon the film’s release, sales for the nightgown skyrocketed. The film is credited with both solidifying the popularity of the gown, and establishing the name, “babydoll,” which is popularly used to this day. Incidentally, Pedlar did not care for the name, and never used it any of her own marketing for the style. Nevertheless, the name lives on.
An Evolving Fashion
The babydoll fashion has evolved quite a bit through the decades. Throughout much of its history, it actually consisted of two pieces: the flowing negligee, and a loose-fitting short bloomer. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the bloomer featured elastic along the waist and legs. In the ‘70s, the bloomer bottom was replaced with a more modern and form-fitting set of briefs. Some babydoll pajamas still feature short bottoms (sans the traditional elastic), but many of today’s babydoll fashions are sold as standalone pieces, which can be worn with any preferred panty or brief. Some lingerie sets will include a babydoll with a matching -- or complementary -- thong or panty. This Sweet Ruffle & Ribbon Baby Doll is one example.
And while we’re on the subject, the trend of babydolls as sexy lingerie didn’t really catch on until the ‘90s, as large companies like Victoria’s Secret began experimenting with ways to appropriate traditional negligees in ways that would cater to the seductive sensibilities of their customers. As more consumers began embracing the babydoll as part of their lingerie collection, designers took it upon themselves to create a variety of elegant, wild, and altogether stunning variations for their own collections. And now we wonder how we ever lived in a world without babydoll lingerie.
Shop Babydoll Lingerie Today
If you’d like to add a sexy new babydoll to your own collection, browse the incredible selection right here at Smitten Lingerie. We offer competitive prices, fast shipping, and exemplary customer service. Best of all, we work with top stylists and curators to bring you only the hottest and most stylish babydolls on the market, so you know that you’re always getting the best. Order yours today.