Once you realize that “babydoll” dresses were really designed to be short enough to easily change a diaper, the whole meaning of the word (and it’s sinister sister “kinderwhore”), takes on an even creepier tinge. The extreme version of this current fashion trend is often a (consciously) eroticized version, but it need not to be so. You can go schoolgirl with it, or romantic and keep the flirt aspect, while shedding the gross infant fetish part.
Watch “Baby Doll” - the 1956 movie with Caroll Baker and see just how the term entered popular culture via her lingerie. Lit buffs might be interested to know that this is an adaption from Tennessee Williams one-act play “27 Wagons Full of Cotton”. The name “Baby Doll” - much catchier. Here is a great write-up of the movie’s glories, plus more steamy stills: http://sunsetgun.typepad.com/sunsetgun/2010/05/hapy-birthday-baby-doll-carroll-baker.html
Here are two stills from the movie of the little nightie from which it all sprung. I will be following up with how this evolved into a variety of fashion interpretations, some from couture, some from the street, and some from my Etsy store.