Kerala's Showstopper: Women in nighties

Kerala's Showstopper: Women in nighties
Kerala's Showstopper: Women in nighties
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Saritha stares at her mother in disbelief as she spots a stack of neatly folded nighties in her mother’s suitcase, all packed for a journey to America. “I cannot survive without them,” Usha tries to reason with her daughter.

Usha is one of thousands of women in Kerala who has been living in the comfort of a nightie for decades.

The nightie or a long gown is regarded as highly comfortable and over the years a lot of women have simply replaced the long loose garment for any other clothes. From a baby’s potty to fresh hot sambhar, the nightie has seen it all.

Try taking a stroll in the morning, and you will find women clad in nighties all around. From the woman who sells milk to the vegetable vendor at the nearby store to the aunty in the television serial, one would invariably come across the garment. Extra points if you manage to find a woman on her morning walk, wearing an Adidas shoe and a shawl neatly draped over her shoulder.

Beena, a housewife from Thrissur says, “It is extremely troublesome to wear a saree at night. I have been wearing nightie for half my life because it is comfortable, especially during summers.”

However, women in Kerala do not restrict themselves to using it as night clothes. Because it is easy to wear and comfortable, some women do not even bother to change into other clothes, when they have to step outside for a while.

Actor Lakshmi Gopalaswamy in an N-Star nightie ad

“I use nightie regularly and I have almost three dozen,” said Mary George who runs a drug-distribution house in Kottayam. She proudly says that she herself designs her own nighties, so much so that she got even her 88-year-old mother to take to the nightie over ten years ago. “I use pure cotton nighties with beautiful floral prints,” a visibly proud Mary said.

Roshni (name changed) who recently had a baby says that she wears nightie throughout the day because it is easier for her to breast feed her child. “I am generally confined to my home as I have a newborn to look after. Since I do not go out much, I mostly roam around in a nightie,” she says.

Actor Samyukta Varma in a movie

Owner of MN Fashions in Kochi Nisha says that they sell around 30,000 pieces per month. She points out that nightie has undergone innovations over the years, and they try to bring out "trendy nighties". “We make innovations in designs, material and prints almost on a monthly basis,” she added. Nighties come in different shapes and kind, even with pockets attached on them to make it convenient.

A representative of V Star, a company that makes nighties says that the demand is so high that there are factories in Tamil Nadu and even in North India that solely churn out nighties for Kerala.

The nightie bug is something that women from Kerala take along with them even if they move out to other states or countries. The garment has also broken the class barrier with women from all strata of society using it.

So, as the cycle agarbatti advertisement goes, different people have different reasons of wearing a nightie. No matter what the women’s reasons for wearing nighties are, the bottom line is that nightie can be considered as the (un)official attire of the women in Kerala. After Kerala Saree, of course. Actually, we doubt that now.


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