What is a Babydoll?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 24 December 2019
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A babydoll is a type of lingerie consisting of a short tank top, usually hitting at the upper thighs or just barely coming to the thighs, and often a pair of matching undies. The babydoll may directly reference the short dresses worn by most baby or infant dolls for young girls. Alternately, most assert that the babydoll was made popular by the film Baby Doll released in 1956.

The movie starred Carroll Baker, and featured her in several short negligees. The style then became almost instantly popular as a necessary lingerie item for women. The babydoll was soon mass-marketed, showing up in lingerie departments at department stores and in many lingerie boutiques. Typically, the initial babydoll was much more modest than those available today. It was usually made of polyester, nylon, or even cotton.

Today you will still most often find the babydoll made in synthetic fabrics. Polyester and nylon are popular choices. Some are quite sheer, leaving little to the imagination, and many have different types of trim. Ribbons, bows, faux fur, or lace can bedeck the babydoll, and they come in just about every imaginable color. Often the tank top has been replaced with spaghetti straps, the baby doll may tie in the front, and reveal much of the abdomen, and it may have a built in bra for greater breast support.


Some versions of the babydoll are simply a short nightgown, and can easily be worn without accompanying panties. Occasionally this form of babydoll is called the chemise or shorty nightgown. The babydoll can be comfortable to wear, especially in its simpler forms and when it is made of cotton, it can be cooler on warm evenings. Most often, though, the babydoll is associated with eroticism and considered lingerie rather than standard, more utilitarian nighttime wear.

You can find babydoll styles at just about every department store, and they will vary in quality and price. Choosing one depends most upon personal taste and whether you lean more toward comfort or toward providing a romantic setting with clothing. Some of the elaborately trimmed babydolls can be somewhat uncomfortable, particularly when the material is inexpensive, or the babydoll is cheaply made. If you’re choosing a babydoll for comfortable sleepwear, look to at least mid-priced ones and definitely feel any trim to see if it will scratch or prove itchy.

Young girls short dresses can be made in babydoll style. These are typically made for infants or the toddler set and may feature ruffled underpants or tights. They’re considered easy, especially for those still in diapers, since you don’t have to undress the baby to get to the diaper. This can be a cute style for youngsters. The tops will generally differ from adult lingerie styles, with cap or long sleeves.

Babydoll style tops have also become popular for women, especially when paired with leggings. The style seems an outgrowth of the Japanese street style, which emphasizes especially childish clothes for female teens and young adults. Such styles were featured in season 3 of the television show America’s Top Model, and appear to have popularized the look in the US.


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Post 1

You should mention that baby dolls where the alternate name for Mary Janes before the Buster Brown company established that name for their kiddie shoe, and sometime after that, shoemakers used "baby doll" for adult shoes with a flat round toe. After that came baby doll dresses...

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