Recent Posts

Chemise Please! Plus… the lowdown on the nightgown

The chemise has come a long way from a simple undergarment. Our bedtime favorite ranges in many styles and colors, don’t you wish you had them all?

Of all the styles available at Julianna Rae one of the more exotic may be the Chemise!  And, it’s not because of the way it looks but because of how tricky its name is to pronounce and the fact that most people don’t know what it is. If you want to learn to say the word then phonetically it’s \shə-ˈmēz.  Still stuck?  Then try “shuh” and “mees”, put it together more quickly each time and you’ve got it… “shuhmees”!  

That wasn’t so hard, was it?  Being able to pronounce it is one small victory, knowing what it is is another. At its most basic a Chemise is a short or mid-length (no longer than mid-calf), always sleeveless nightgown that is typically loose-fitting. Essentially, the chemise is the shorter sister of the long nightgown.  

The Midnight Beauty Silk Chemise is just as comfortable for bed as it is by day! It sparkles in Delicate above and in Kirsch below
A Chemise makes the perfect slip dress! The secret to invisible undergarments: a simple strapless bra and plain thong in a nude shade that’s as close to your skin tone as possible.

In modern French, a “chemise” is simply a man’s nightshirt. But before the late 18th century a chemise was a simple undergarment worn next to the skin. In fact, until the early 1800’s it was the ONLY article of clothing worn underneath, and (lucky for the wearer!) was the only piece of clothing washed weekly.  

Also around this same time, the “category” of sleepwear came into being when higher class women began to wear chemise-like gowns exclusively to bed.  These became known as nightshifts.  The shifts later morphed into the negligee with a shorter hem and softer, more sheer fabrics used in their construction.  This garment was soon seen as a symbol of wealth and became the predecessor of the modern nightgown.  

But the nightgown wasn’t always a garment associated with the female gender.  Prior to the 18th-century, nightgowns were predominantly worn by men – think Ebenezer Scrooge!  Whether worn by a male or female, nightgowns were, and still are, made of a wide range of fabrics.  Depending on the weather and class of person wearing the gown it could be made of anything from simple cotton, to fine linen, silk, damask, brocade, velvet, taffeta, satin, or wool with linings of satin or fur for the colder weather.

A long nightgown is as elegant as it gets with beautiful details and added lace but on some gowns no lace is needed… the beauty is in the silhouette! Left, Ariadne Silk Long Gown in Pearl. Right, Splendid Silk Gown in Amethyst.

Through the years both the nightgown and chemise have transformed from plain utilitarian undergarments to modern-day staples worn for bed. More recently, they’ve also emerged as daywear.  With embellishments like embroidery and lace and gorgeous fabrics like silk, it would be a shame to wear a chemise only to bed!

At Julianna Rae we love our chemises and nightgowns!  We use natural fabrics cut on the bias so they’ll flow just right over your body, flattering your curves where you have them and creating the illusion of them if you don’t.  With the addition of our luxurious lace designs placed just so, they’ll make anyone feel like a movie star on their own red carpet!  

Can’t decide if you love a long nightgown or calf-skimming chemise?  Buy both styles now with 20% off during our Beauty of Fall sale

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer, she worked with Julianna Rae in Customer Service and Graphics and now writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at in her favorite Camille Silk Nighgown in Indigo with its gorgeous lace hemline and unique cowl neck.