Written By

Chitra Doraiswami


A Nightie Mare is not a day dream, it isn’t a reverie, it is what it looks like — a nightmare (and nothing to do with horses!).

The other day I saw what put a lid on things, so to say. I saw a woman, made-up, with jewellery, etc. browsing around in a cloth shop, dressed in a nightie!

So, the nightie has entered the realms of ‘proper attire’ for the occasion!

How did this happen, when did the trouble start?

Back then, in the Sixties most of the women I saw wore sarees and only sarees. The Salwar Kameez was known as The Punjabi Dress and that was worn by, who else? Punjabis. Women sported different styles of sarees according to the region…you had the Bengali style, the slightly modified Odisha style, the Iyer madsar, the Ayyangar madsar, the Coorgi swanky almost-a-gown style, the Gujarati way, the sexy Maharashtrian way and the usual Navi which we sport now.

The Sixties saw the entry of women in offices; banks mostly, but slowly other offices as well. Women were more aware than ever. So magazines for ladies proliferated – the Femina, Eve’s Weekly, Trend, Star and Style and others of this ilk.

Fashion pages padded every issue. Women pored over them (even mere girls like me). The Punjabi costume caught our eye. Oh, not its old avatar which closely resembled a mini-tent with a loose, huge odni draped all over it, even the head. It made you look like a mobile dhobi bundle.

But the snazzy, jazzy one that fashion editors illustrated (nobody was bold enough to wear it, I guess). Then hey presto, somebody found a tailor who made one, the fillum shtars of Bolly, by golly, wood wore it. And there you are, a fashion revolution was born.

But, ah, as in all revolutions, you have no idea where it will end. The excess cloth was cut. We listened to Polonius’ advice (‘Cut your coat according to the cloth’), we  read ‘curves’ instead of ‘ coat’ and the skinfit, tight salwar kameez that helped Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, etc. to waddle along, was born.

Hallelujah! We also found that ‘… men DO make passes at girls who wear glasses’ so long as they flaunt their curves.

Then there was no stopping us. Then our kith and kin moved to the USA and quickly became NRIs.  Their fashion notion became ‘vedavaak’ to us. But our ideas of modesty were still rigidly held on to. NO showing legs. So, long skirts were OK. So were long maxis (do you see where this is going?). Sari blouses started getting tweaked. It went up waist-wise, and came down, neck-wise and it became a sleeveless little something which wouldn’t cover a naked gnat.

So, mothers couldn’t complain about pants (legs still covered) and the top showed lot less skin than a blouse. Now, you are the most hopeless of ‘behenjis’ if you don’t wear jeans. So, what happens to real ‘behenjis’ with fashion aspirations? They can’t wear pants. Aiyaiyo. The answer is the infamous NIGHTIE. It is 100% Indian. Nobody else has even heard of such a thing. And it looks like a Maxi!

Hence, all hail the nightie as the new diktat of frowsy fashion. And don’t forget the comfort factor.




Chitra Doraiswami, 69, is from Bangalore. She has written for many publications such as the Deccan Herald, The Times, Femina, Eve’s Weekly, etc. Chitra has many an interesting tale to tell including the one about finishing her Masters along with her son; sadly “only” getting a First Class, where her son got a rank. She joined CMR, NPS as Headmistress two decades ago and is now known as the Associate Principal of the institution. She also has a sixteen year old grandson. Chitra is an avid dancer, reader and drama-enthusiast. She's traveled extensively with her husband who was in the IAF. She taught wherever they were posted. Chitra enjoys teaching people innovative ways of helping children learn, but she is definitely not the prototypical fluffy grandma!

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