A babydoll is a short, sleeveless, loose fitting nightgown or negligee intended as nightwear for women. It usually consists of formed cups with an attached loose fitting skirt falling in length between the hips and the belly button. The garment is often trimmed with lace, ruffles, appliques, marabou fur, bows and ribbons, optionally with spaghetti straps. Sometimes it is made of sheer or translucent fabric like nylon or chiffon or silk. The garment's hemline is usually about six inches above the knee like a minidress and may have a scoop-neck. Usually panties are worn underneath.

It is always said the name was popularized by the 1956 movie "Baby Doll" starring Carroll Baker in the title role, which essentially marked the beginning of the enduring popularity of the style for adults.

Short daywear dresses of a similar style are sometimes called "babydoll dresses"; the name is sometimes two words, "baby doll", and sometimes hyphenated, "baby-doll". Some styles are similar to what is worn by dolls in the form of infants, and by some infants; the gown is short enough that diapers are easily changed. However, there may be an alternative origin for the style, if we consider the lineage of lace-trimmed shortie bedjackets and bed-capes of the 1930s and 1940s.

It is now a highly eroticized item of adult apparel, often classified as a form of lingerie. When worn by an adult woman there is great contrast to when worn by an infant; the legs are fully displayed and some styles emphasize or deliberately expose the breasts as well. The gown is often sold as a set with matching panties as a typical babydoll is short enough that underwear is visible if worn. Styles of the same general length but not intended to emphasize sex appeal are sometimes called shortie nightgowns.

Babydolls became a prominent part of the "Kinderwhore" look during the early-to-mid 1990s due to the popularity of Riot Grrrl and Grunge music performers like Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland.

Babydolls are now available in a sufficiently wide variety of styles that many lingerie retailers consider babydolls a distinct department. Modern babydolls often vary considerably from the styles of the 1960s and 1970s. Babydoll negligees from the 1950s to the early 1980s are now collectible vintage items. Some babydolls open up in front and resemble more of a robe or peignoir.

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