How Nighties Became a Wardrobe Staple for South Asian Women

In a culture that heavily polices women’s bodies, the shapeless garment has become a symbol of freedom.

Nighties by Aziza Ahmad
Nighties (Aziza Ahmad for The Juggernaut)

Poulomi Das


August 25, 2021


9 min

In the 1980s, Sudipta Ghosh Hazra, then in her 20s, was living with her army family in Jamshedpur, a nondescript steel city. At the time, Ghosh Hazra, the eldest of two siblings, rarely saw her mother wear anything but a sari. “She would do every household chore, from filling water from the neighborhood handpump to cooking elaborate meals for hours inside our small kitchen, wearing a sari. It must have been uncomfortable,” Ghosh Hazra, now in her 50s, told me. “But I don’t think my mother — or the women in her generation — knew that they could prioritize comfort.”

The only exception was during the summer. The brutal heat left her mother drenched in sweat. So, before sleeping at night — ensuring that her husband and her son were already fast asleep — she would close the door to the room she shared with her daughter, take off her sari, and change into a free-flowing, airy cotton garment: the nightie. The garment, a mix between a maxi dress and nightgown, wasn’t tight-fitting or elaborate. Despite the nightie’s apparent comfort, Ghosh Hazra never saw her wear it during the day. “By the time I woke up, she was already dressed in a sari. It’s as if the nightie were her nighttime self-care ritual.”

Today, both mother and daughter prefer wearing nighties — now a wardrobe staple for women across South Asia — throughout the day. And they’re not alone.

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in