Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

The Not So Humble Housedress

Today I was so excited to find this wonderful vintage housedress. It’s probably from the 50’s, done in a soft cotton with a super sweet print and some lovely detail at the neckline.

Vintage Housedress

Vintage Housedress

So what is a housedress? Basically a cotton day dress with easy closures (usually in the front), with pockets (usually patch) that was worn around the house to do chores in. I remember my grandmother wearing these colorful frocks in her apartment, saving her good dresses for going out.

Probably their modern corollary, minus the panache, is a pair of sweat pants or yoga pants and a tee shirt. But unlike workout wear, these simple everyday housedresses had a really nice sense of style.

They seem to have started out as simple wrap shapes, but you’ll also see lots with zip-fronts as well as more day-dress attributes like buttons, interesting collars, sashes and ties.

Aside from all the cool design features, there are some other interesting cultural elements this simple dress brings up.

There has even been a whole book written on the subject,  The House Dress: a Story of Eroticism and Fashion that looks at the evolution of the humble and practical garment. Here is an interesting idea from the book:

The idea of the house dress is closely related to the concept of housework and domesticity. At the same time, it is distinguished by not being a uniform, thanks in particular to the decorations of the fabric.

The theory is that fabric choice and trim were what kept  a housedress from looking like a maids uniform. Interesting!  Something to think about when you look at all the binding and appliqué in these dresses. Ric rac,  lace and ruffles were commonly used, while some of the trims were wildly creative. Look at the pockets, collars and contrast edging:

 

And here are some modern ladies wearing vintage housedresses:

 

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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