A nightshirt is an item of nightwear that resembles a shirt, but is somewhat longer so that it reaches down to mid-thigh, knee or ankle level. It is generally loose-fitting to avoid restricting the wearer's movement while sleeping.
As a bedtime garment, the nightshirt is the successor of a type of long undergarment used by many Europeans through the 19th century. This undergarment was worn all day under outer clothing. At night the outer clothing was removed, and men and women slept in the long shirt-like garment. This smock was longer for women than for men, more resembling a dress. Upon arising in the morning, the outer garments were again put on over it.
In the 19th century, this practice was abandoned and designated "nightshirts" were put on for sleep and off again after arizing. These nightshirts became the standard nightwear for both men and women until the 20th century, when they were gradually replaced by pajamas and other garments. Nightshirts for boys and men were usually shorter (just covering the buttocks) than those for girls and women (down to below the knee). Today, nightshirts are mostly considered a female garment, worn by preteen girls, teenaged girls, and adult women. Though either gender children might wear an adult's shirt or T-shirt as makeshift nightwear.
A nightgown (also called a nightdress), worn exclusively by females, can be similar to a nightshirt, but most nightgowns are cut more like a dress than a shirt. A short nightgown is often called nightie.
Nightshirts and nightgowns can be of a wide variety of fabrics, plain or decorated, thin or warmer. Nightshirts can be short or long sleeved while nightgowns are often sleeveless. Traditionally, no underwear is worn under a nightshirt or nightgown. Today, many people wear underwear (such as panties) under the garment for reasons of hygiene and/or modesty, while other people prefer the traditional underwear-free style.
In many hospitals, patients are made to wear hospital gowns that are like a kind of nightshirt which is fastened at the back. This provides easy access to the patient's back and buttocks when such is needed. Although this cut has mere practical reasons, some people find the rear opening embarrassing or humiliating.
Nightshirts and spanking
Like all items of nightwear, nightshirts are considered cute and erotic by some people and may be worn as fetish clothing. Those who like spanking may find it convenient and sexy to spank their partner when he or she is wearing nothing but a nightshirt. For a bare bottom spanking, the nightshirt can be simply pulled up to expose the wearer's buttocks. Or for a particularly exposed variant, the nightshirt can be pulled up so far that the complete torso is bared, and the nightshirt falls over the spankee's head. (E.g. in the over-the-knee position.)
A hospital gown can be used for medical play in many of the same ways.
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