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Chemise Please!   Plus… the lowdown on the nightgown | Julianna Rae

Are you a chemise person, or a nightgown kind of gal? I have to say, I’ve never been too sure. Personally, I love the idea of a chemise – it’s just so sexy! But then again, there’s something romantic about a long, flowy nightgown that just calls my name.  What is a chemise, you ask? And why does it have such a fancy name? Well, read on to find out!  And if that’s not enough, we’ll also give you the lowdown on nightgowns. So pull up a chair and get ready to learn about some serious lingerie!

Chemise or Nightgown… which is your favorite? Left, Serenade Silk Chemise, Right, Allura Silk Long Gown.

What is a Chemise?

Of all the styles available at Julianna Rae one of the more exotic is 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. Though the pronunciation and meaning of the term may be confusing at first, it’s easy to understand what this style is once you know a little more about its origin and history. 

Drawing made by David Ring for the Europeana Fashion project ( The drawing was commissioned to represent a concept in Europeana Fashion’s visual fashion thesaurus which was developed under the coordination of the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels. David Ring created the drawings in the library of MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp and this is also where they are currently kept.

A chemise is a sleeveless, short or mid-length nightgown that is typically loose-fitting. It’s essentially the shorter sister of the long nightgown. In French, the term “chemise” simply refers to a man’s nightshirt. However, before the late 18th century, chemises were worn as an undergarment next to the skin by both men and women to protect clothing from sweat and body oils. In fact, until the early 1800’s, the chemise was the only article of clothing worn underneath.  Not surprisingly, it was also the only piece of clothing that was washed weekly!

Whether you’re looking for a simple and understated chemise or something sexier, Julianna Rae has the perfect options for you. Top left, Induglence Silk Chemise, Top right, Moonlight Serenade Silk Nightgown, Bottom, Le Tresor Silk Chemise.

The transformation from undergarments to sleepwear

Also around this same time, the “category” of sleepwear came into being when 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.  Today, chemises are still a popular and comfortable option for nightwear as well as daywear. They come in a variety of colors, fabrics, and styles to suit any taste. Whether you’re looking for a simple and understated chemise or something sexier, Julianna Rae has the perfect option for you in either silk or cotton. 

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, Right, Splendid Silk Long Gown.

Hello Nightgown!

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!  The nightgown or dressing gown in earlier ages were a substitute for our modern (and comfy) sweats and t-shirt and were worn around the house or for informal occasions by both sexes.  By the late 1800s through the early 1900s though men began to replace the nightgown or nightshirt with pajamas while the female version continued to evolve with current fashion trends.

Luckily for us both the nightgown and chemise have transformed from plain utilitarian undergarments to modern-day staples and more recently, they’ve also emerged as daywear.  With embellishments like embroidery and lace and designers using 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.  We add luxurious lace designs placed just so or go entirely without to make every chemise or nightgown in our collections as unique and beautiful as you are!

Still can’t decide if you love a long nightgown or calf-skimming chemise?  Buy both styles now during our Nightgown and Chemise Sale until May 21st!

Deb Fries is a freelance writer and designer and worked at Julianna Rae in graphics and customer service she now writes for the blog at