Nightie came into practice among Indian woman in 1980s and was worn day in and day out, by middle class woman, in the beginning. It was to have free movements, to be worn in the night, for sleep. However the nightie surpassed the sleep and was worn for household work, in the village, in the towns and in the cities. Gradually the same nightie evolved beyond sleeping, working and trod towards becoming a leisurely and casual wear, be it in the factory, park, street and public transport—four pillars of Indian culture. It seems the dress was brought to India by Indian women who returned after working a while from the Saudi countries. However, this became a dress which refuted its initial definitions and parameters: now it is worn not only in the night in the privacy of the comfortable home but also in the broad daylight, visible to every stranger on the street. though used indoors, when even strangers and relatives visit, the nightie remains on the woman because here is one feminine dress that refutes an easy categorization or bifurcation, based on mundane classifications like caste, class etc.,
Women wear nightie in India anywhere, everywhere, elsewhere and at any given point of time, in the day as well as night, seemingly with a purpose to destroy all kind of hierarchy amongst women’s dress till date. It is worn by women as young as eight years and as old as eighty years. They wear it while visiting domestic, popular as well as religious places, and remain to stay on them even when a VIP visits them. It’s a ‘design invention’ which discovered varieties of opportunities for its own self: it is worn while walking, driving, by women belonging to all class, caste and age, unlike, say linen. Marxism applied to Indian women’s dress becomes a nightie!
Since 1980s, nighties have become house hold dress for Indian women, who began to use it as a substitute for both indoor and outdoor costumes. It is structured to hide and reveal the feminine structure appropriately, without being obscene or seeming lavish. The diversity of India is captured by an unifying element called nightie. The one aspect that men were uneasy with nightie was its refusal to be categorized: not a saree, not chudidaar, not a gown, not a toga but it was just a nightie! In this sense it’s a swayambu (self-born), never derived from any or many things. More than that, it refuses to fall into the tight categorization of women’s dresses, because it in itself is a brand, a dress code, a historic moment and a magic carpet that alters as an when historicity of dress code is required to suit women.
However, within this all inclusive democratic feminine dress was an artificial hierarchy brought about by added patterns and the cost of it that varied too much between hundreds to thousands of rupees. If there is one entity which can be used as a specific dress, but clads an ambiguous identity, it is the Indian woman’s nightie for sure.//