Nightgown, now the term for women's or girls' garments worn to bed, is historically a somewhat confusing term.
From the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, it was a man's loose gown. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
it was a woman's informal day dress-which was, as the name implies, originally an evening dress-hence women might quite modestly go to church in their nightgowns. While authorities believe that for much of Western history no specialized clothing-and sometimes no clothing-was worn for sleep, by the sixteenth century, nightclothes closely related to basic daywear had been adopted by both sexes.
Ready-made nightwear became available in the mid-nineteenth century, but not until late in that century did nightgowns become more elaborate.
Still cut loose and long, embellishment on the yoke, front placket, and cuffs could include all manner of ribbon, beading, lace, insertions, pin tucks, embroidery, and ruffles. Now usually of cotton, white remained the standard color, although the turn of the century saw occasional use of washing silk and colors, such as pink, which was said to wash well.