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Apr 11, 2011

The Heyday of the Housecoat


Friends, a personal question: What do you wear in the privacy of your own home and does it look anything like an evening gown?  Once upon a time -- in the living memory of some of you, I know -- women and men dressed up...just to hang around the house!


Alternately called a duster, topper, smock, robe or housecoat, these garments were intended to be worn at home only -- presumably after you'd let out your girdle and wanted to relax.

The heyday of the housecoat was the 1930's through the early 1960's.  Housecoats were elaborately constructed, often full-length, and never tatty-looking.  I'm guessing some were meant more for home entertaining (Why not just put on regular clothes?) while others were of the vacuuming/dusting/answering-the-phone variety.

They were rarely utilitarian.


Men were also covered up and ready for guests, a pipe, and a brandy.  No boxers or sweat pants -- or worse -- were on display.


As with most things fashion-related, the housecoat got more casual over the subsequent decades.  They started looking less like ballgowns and more like something to throw on upon waking when you didn't care what you looked like. 


The magic was gone but the worst was still to come: more recent decades brought us the rock-bottom ugliness of unisex.  (Who stopped caring first: us, or the pattern companies?)


Readers, is it too much to argue that cultural decline can be traced in something as quotidian as a housecoat?

In closing, do you now, or have you ever, worn a housecoat that wasn't a bathrobe?  Do you lounge around the house in a full-length gown with scalloped bodice or princess seams?  Would you like to?  Does anybody lounge anymore, come to think of it?

What happened to the housecoat, in your opinion?  Did the houses get smaller -- or did we? 

Answers, please!

60 comments:

  1. Like hats it is gone unless you are a aged monarch. It is easier to throw on old clothes. I lived through that era and never remember seeing anyone looking glamorous in a house coat.

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  2. I have a full length housecoat as I only wear it it the post happens to be delivered while I'm in the shower. Then I diffently need something to throw on so I can get my must wanted treasures recently bought on the internet. I mostly wear jeans at home - so does my husband. I my opponion sweatpants ect. are for sweating - only to be worn when going for a run or in the Gym. I will file for a divorce the day my husband changes into a sweatsuit when coming home from work - just to be comftable ;)

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  3. Good morning. I'm not sipping tea in satin, but sitting cross-legged typing in an old T and saggy grey leggings. TMI, I know.

    I would love to be able to emulate the delightful Myrna Loy, and there *was* a time when I had a nice collection of nightwear... but now that I have a little one again my own mornings lack both leisure and glamor. I'm usually content to make myself look & feel half-decent before I go out the door! I guess these are issues Nick and Nora didn't face (at least up to _Another Thin Man_...but much as I love all the Thin Man films, it would be hard to argue that they offer a realistic portrayal of family life in any era!).

    Nevertheless, I love the fantasy evoked by the housedress patterns!

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  4. Back in the 70s, I used to wear caftans when I planned to stay at home. I usually slept in nightgowns and I would put the caftan on over the nightgown. I felt very glamorous hanging around the house in a floor length garment. Somehow, I just slipped out of the habit and started sleeping in t-shirts or ratty sweats. Not nearly as glam.

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  5. I have a home ec book from the mid '50s that decries the tendency of women to wear their old dresses for housework, gardening, etc. The picture with it is hilarious - they show a woman in a chiffon garden party type dress which has clearly seen better days in slippers and with curlers in her hair answering the door. They recommend either a housedress, or a apron or smock over regular clothes.

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  6. In my memory of the fifties (I don't remember the forties!) some women wore house dresses. I think my mother did at least until she began teaching school. In my memory of our summers, she wore a blouse and skirt--never shorts, and rarely if ever, slacks. (That came later, in the '70s)
    No one in our family wore fancy loungewear at any time in my memory. If this stuff was was as common as you think, it must have been upper class common. You had to have a certain amount of leisure and disposable income to need the sort of loungewear you show in those old patterns. The same way ordinary people would not need full length ball gowns, they would not need or want to spend money on full length dressing gowns.

    I have adopted men's shirts instead of a housecoat for early morning wear, especially in the colder months. A warm flannel shirt covers me nicely, keeps me warm, and doesn't get in my way.

    As far as lounging, yes! Retirement allows me to lounge. But it doesn't require a special wardrobe.

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  7. On my perpetual to-sew list is a dark green silk velvet housecoat with a decadently full skirt. Possibly incorporating smocking. I estimate that it would take around 7 yds of fabric, so I am always on the lookout for an unbelievable deal on dark green silk velvet.

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  8. My mother always wore very glamorous caftans at home just in case neighbors stopped by for cocktails (I kid you not). I'm not quite as stylish and am usually wearing yoga pants and a tank top. I have recently purchased a few caftan patterns so maybe I am turning into my mother...

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  9. I have housecoats. I like to look pretty whenever. I also have the housedress. I normally wear them in the summer when I'm in the house and it's beastly hot.

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  10. I guess it's how much time you spend at home. I don't enjoy wearing sweat pants, so I have some long cool cotton dresses to wear only at home. They're comfy, simple and pretty. I thought to make a long 30's housecoat from flannelette for winter (no central heating in the tropics, it doesn't freeze, but gets chilly).

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  11. In my 20s I used to wear a long cotton kimono at home. Not really a housecoat but more a dress than than a bathrobe. I loved it and it was so comfortable. After a long period of prank ringing on the doorbell I noticed there was a peep-hole in the door opposite my apartment and someone was giggling behind it. I realized that I was probably looking different and a bit in my underwear, opening in my kimono. I stopped wearing it and after a while I caught two teenage boys trying to claw their way trough the door when I opened much faster then they expected.

    That was the end of housecoat for me I'm sorry to say.

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  12. I remember my mom wearing what would I guess have been called a housecoat - as I recall, it looked more like a labcoat to me but what the heck - but it would be as a 'prep for' rather than a 'loosen the girdle after' sort of thing. She'd get dressed right up to the point of putting on her dress when she and my dad were going to go out for the evening. Then, she'd wear the housecoat to do the last minute cooking for my sister and I, do her hair etc. and THEN she'd put on her fancy dress and shoes to go out.

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  13. Hi Peter!! The housecoat came with a house maid! And I, Spoiled Princess, have the latter and am at this minute wearing a unisex bathrobe :(. I look at the vintage robes and sigh... gorgeous!! I really DO need to dress prettier. In my 30's I had beautiful "lounge wear"...
    Your topics are ALWAYS sew interesting!!

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  14. I love vintage lounge wear! I have gowns inspired by the 30's and a robe from the 40's. My 50's robe doesn't fit so my dressform wears it. It gets hot around here, so in the summer I like a cool shower early in the evening and then slip into something comfortable!

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  15. I LOVE to wear housedresses when I'm just at home doing house work, but only when it's warm enough, of course. Otherwise it's jeans. Today is the first "skirt" day of the year for us. Going up to the mid 60s today with rain, nevertheless it's skirt and sandals for me. I'm in for a day of laundry and floor scrubbing.
    Incidentally, this afternoon I'm teaching my very first sewing lesson! My friend's daughter will come every Monday for nine weeks. "Give me a girl at an impressionable age . . ." and I will teach her sew!

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  16. i have yet to own a fancy dressing gown - still looking for the perfect one! - but i do tend to "lounge" around the house wearing fancy slips. not quite the same category, considering slips are just dress-like underwear, but i feel pretty & lacey & delicate. i also wear them to the store, which gets me a lot of looks (less "what a pretty slip!" and more "does she realize she is wandering around kroger in her underwear?", though).

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  17. I didn't know anyone who wore lounge wear at home, but they were sold. Mom wore a housecoat and a robe. That were not very exciting at all. I have a kimono that I wear once in a while when it's a bit chilly in the house. In the evening I wear the modern version of lounging pajamas, i.e. a night shirt and knit pull on pants.

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  18. My husband would absolutely love it if I was in a velvet housedress when he came home, favorite chair, pipe and slippers ready for the returning king. And when dinner was ready, I'd whisk into the parlor, twirling my frilly dress, and announce that dinner is ready.
    More frequently, or rather always, I am in jeans and a sweatshirt, possibly wearing an apron as well, with kids buzzing around me and the garlic toast burning in the broiler. He doesn't even wear slippers or smoke a pipe anyway. The point is that although we need to know the person beyond the clothes, it can show someone a lot of love/respect if we consider our dressing habits in regards to their feelings.

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  19. Hi Peter,

    My mom never had any housedress, but my mother-in-law use to wear them! My husband talked about this once. But it seems that they were not glamorous at all, and looked more like some sort of Lab uniform, just with flowered patterns... I use confortable clothes, but one friend of mine uses to dressed up and even use make up just to stay at home!

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  20. I just found your blog and I LOVE it! It is so funny that you are blogging about housecoats - I was on the hunt for a vintage pattern for one last night. I am 45 but I was raised by my grandma so housecoats were plentiful. As were aprons...some dress aprons some utilitarian. I miss those days...sigh....then I realized I DON"T HAVE TO! I am going to make my own. I am about to have heart and then back surgery so I want to look glamourous - well at least not frumpy while recuperating this time. Last year I had surgery and recuperated in sweat clothes - YUCK! I want my 4 year old to have the same great memories of style that I do. Ok, rant over. To your question, I think we got lazy as a society about ourselves and went for easy....Bring back glamour and style! Pretty dresses like your "cousin" Cathy wears! Dresses instead of sweats, housecoats instead of unisex robes......We can do it one blog at at time....
    Maria

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  21. I wear Butterick 9214 and I love it! I'm even in the process of making a winter coat out of it I love it so much!
    I wanted a change from the velour sweatpants and I love how elegant it makes me feel, even in the morning, when by definition I never look good! I can also answer the door with it and not feel like I am not dressed yet.
    You can visit my archive page, there are several posts about it, and red coat on the way.

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  22. I once sewed a dress out of a housedress pattern from the 40s. My intention was to have it as a day dress for regular wear outside of the house but it was not a good shape for that--the top was incredibly too blousy and I felt I needed to wear something under it to keep from exposing myself. So I cut the top off and made it into a skirt.

    Like others I do sometimes wear vintage slips around the house and I have a lovely robe that I made out of a sari but usually prefer to wear "real" clothes.

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  23. My mom had beautiful 40's era lounge wear in her closet. It hung there until it fell apart. It was too pretty to wear, and she didn't lounge anyway. It eventually became a halloween costume for me. Imagine a hot pink satin quilted jacket with black satin corded medallions above each breast with long satin loops which could tie the coat closed. Add a pair of black jersey palazzo pants, and a crepe de chine blouse that buttoned up the back also in pink and black, and you have a garment of wonder. I peeked at it nearly every day. Mom kept her pretty clothes in my closet. I never saw her wear it, and she joked that she bought it before she was married, thinking she would have time to lounge around. There was also a teal satin robe. Quilted with bling on the collar. It fell apart on the hanger as well. I make house coats for the quick dress, and like capri leggings and big shirts for comfy time.

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  24. I am a collector of housecoat and "lounge" patterns. i love wearing them around and feeling vintagey even when i'm doing dishes (and to be honest they look just like regular wrap dresses and comfortable simple day dresses). my house dresses are generally 40s, 50s, and 60s and done in funky prints. the 60s patterns look more like a shirt dress really but with awesome huge pockets and tie around the waist instead of the fitted bodice. i totally have them out and about too, not just hiding at home. but when i'm really slumming it, its totally sweats and ratty t's; the kids don't care! :)

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  25. As a work-at-home mom, I have been known in the past to wear a t-shirt and sweats all day. However, some time ago, I decided it was better to get more "dressed" (even if I didn't have plans to go out that day) just because lots of clothes in my closet were simply going unworn. I decided I didn't need a "special" occasion to wear certain things. Who cares if no one outside the family is going to see me? Getting dressed in more than a t-shirt and sweats makes me feel better about myself and also helps get me more motivated and productive.

    On the other hand, I definitely dress down to do things like work in the garden. A friend of mine once posted pictures of herself all dressed up, hair done and all, supposedly getting ready to garden. I wonder how much "gardening" she really did.... Maybe picked a few flowers? ;-)

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  26. I love that you devoted a blog post to housecoats. I have a few vintage slinky rayon ones that I wear often in the summer on my patio. The fitted ones from the 40s in polka dots or great prints are good sellers in my store. People often buy them to chop and wear as dresses with slips underneath (they blow open if they are wrap). THe shapeless schmatta ones from the 60's 70s ---you can hardly give those away, but often I am a sucker for the fabric and they are good for turning into something else.

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  27. Hmmm.... floor length dress vs yoga pants. I have a friend who does the same as I do- change from jeans or work pants into yoga pants when she comes home in the evening - and calls it "comfy pants time". ;) I would kind of worry about getting a fancy outfit, even if it is only a housecoat, dirty when working in the kitchen making dinner or whatever. Yoga pants are infinitely more washable. :)

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  28. I have an embarrassing number of bathrobes, all of which are too hot after half an hour of sitting around in! I may have to make myself a nice housecoat for the many Saturdays I've had where I sit at home and don't do much.

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  29. By nature, I am not a lounge wear person. I don't leave my bedroom unless I am dress and my mom uniform of choice is jeans, a nice t-shirt or button front shirt and an apron. I have about 20 aprons form ugly utilitarian to boudoir( never gonna get dirty in the kitchen)
    My mother loves nice velour robes in the winter and she has several dusters (seersucker) for the warmer months.

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  30. What do I wear in the privacy of my own home?as little as possible! If I could I'd just wrap myself in a freshly washed sheet everyday. (don't you just love the feeling of warm clean sheets.. ok, maybe I'm weird) As a teenager I use to fashion togas for myself out of sheets and belt and pretty scarfs. Sadly I cannot do that anymore with a little one around so these days I usually wear a comfy skirt and a t-shirt.

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  31. Housecoats looked like evening gowns only in the movies. And maybe in movie stars' bedrooms. Most people have always worn something comfortable but cheap at home.

    I don't have a housecoat, and don't wish to have one. I've just finished pajama pants out of chinese brocade, which I'm enjoying, much more glamorous than my usual and better for Spring than flannel. But on the whole I don't think a coat is what I need. Warm pants and a nice boiled wool cardigan are much more my speed, stylewise. Or a dress in the summer, if anything.

    I do lounge assiduously though, if you call reading sprawled on the couch lounging :-).

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  32. I cut my first robe (ubiquitous unisex simplicity 5685 from the seventies) last saturday. It's pretty basic, but should this project be successful, I plan at least two other versions : one in a decadent silk velvet, one in satin an silk cotton.

    This being said, I suppose I'm MUCH more into lingerie and loungewear than the average. I guess it's parly due to the fact I change my attitude and feel much better in comfortable and luxurious fabrics. One day I'll definitely be up for floor-length bias slip dresses _ even if I'd be happy to wear them in a fancy place too.

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  33. as little as possible around the house -- we're avoiding the AC and living in Florida.

    I love the old housecoat patterns! Makes me want to find one and make it just-above-the-knee length.

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  34. One of my grandmother's always wore a housecoat. Unfortunately, she always looked so ratty because her bra and slip straps would fall halfway down her arms! However, she gave me her 'at home' evening pajama set from her trousseau (1936)....picture black satin slacks and a black satin jacket with red dragons on it...I wore it to a fancy dress party in 1978..I like to lounge in pjs and a cozy robe after dinner....

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  35. Wonderful post, Peter! My mom instructed my sisters and me in the 50s that it was more important to look good for your family than for anyone else, and she would have fainted away if she saw the ratty ts my college friends wore. I didn't have any, but still like to wear long simple robes & caftans at home. My husband likes the robes I make him, too, as we keep our house cool in (Ohio) winters--we can answer the door decently. Just recovered from a nasty lung infection & appreciated a snuggly robe to dope out in--the medications knocked me flat. Recent fashions are comfy but overlook the ugliness for other people. I hold out for comfy AND reasonably attractive, tho the satin Hollywood gowns look silly to me. They are part of the fantasy of the movies, and for eras when women had more time for almost everything.

    I just watched the fabulous BBC production of War and Peace on DVDs (1972), a wonderful series of costume glory. Miles of gold braid and marvelous Russian robes with quilted & embroidered lapels, worn with flat caps. So elegant. I'm making a pair for my hubbie and me for next winter, full skirts & all. Bring on the vodka and the blintzes! Kristina in Ohio

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  36. no housecoats here, but TONS of house dresses...usually little spaghetti strap numbers that I throw on upon waking, and then lounge around in all day

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  37. I recently made some loungewear for myself, feeling that in my post-college years I should stop doing the tank-and-shorts thing (at best). The following week I caught the worst cold I've ever had, which left me spending the majority of my days on the couch. Not only was being able to wear my satin loungewear the most uplifting aspect of an otherwise horrible week, but I wasn't embarrassed or hastily running around the house to find something to throw on when I answered the door to receive a package. It's made me want to make myself a few more items so I can have a greater selection.

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  38. In my husband's country of origin - Indonesia - there is a culture of wearing "daster" inside the house to clean/lounge/otherwise amuse one's self and wear your "good" clothes outside. I have embraced that custom wholeheartedly and I now own - thanks to my MIL - a large contingent of them. Both long and short dress style and also two piece pyjama types in both shorts and capri length. All of them come in some of the most "unique" and "interesting" color combinations one could think up. But I swear by my Bernina that they are also freaking COMFORTABLE. And some of them I WOULD wear out. Heck, when I've had to do one of those middle of the night ER runs with a sick or injured kid, I'm not embarrassed to leave the house in them. They're not ballgowns, but they aren't unisex or a tatty old Spongebob tshirt with holey britches either. They're made of viscose, so they get SUPER soft with wearing.

    Heck, I'm sitting here right now in one. I certainly plan on making a vintage housedress or two, but I don't think they'll ever replace my beloved daster.

    Even my mom has gotten in on the daster love and she's the type of woman who puts on a fresh face of makeup to go to bed. So there ya go.

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  39. A housecoat or "housedress" to my grandmothers meant a homely cotton dress with big pockets which was worn ONLY while cleaning house in the mornings, after which they bathed and put on something nicer, whether they were going out to run errands or staying in to relax a bit after the chores were done. Something nicer" included a girdle and nylons too, of course, which they wouldn't have worn while doing the chores.
    The glamorous housecoat of Hollywood was never seen outside of H'wood and Nick and Nora's Manhattan set, so don't feel that you've missed out on something. Few people in any era dressed as well as we like to imagine when we look back at back issues of fashion mags.
    -- stashdragon

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  40. I swear I love your blog!
    My grandmother lived through the 1930's and 40's and my earliest memories of her during the 1970's was always in a nice pretty house dress. I never ever saw that women looking busted at anytime while she was alive and well. She was a glamorous diva.
    My mom (her daughter) wasn't that serious about it but threw it on well at home (clean neat, matching)
    Now me? I like to look chic to greet my husband at the door after a long day at work ("muah! How was your day babe?"), but before and a couple of hours after that I look like I could say..."Tell me more about my eyes hmm" (a line from the old Looney
    Tunes cartoons-and if it sounds familiar, "Welcome to the 40 and over club!")

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  41. When I was a teen in the early 80s I worked in a department store that always kept one large rack of cotton housecoats. We, the teen-aged clerks, got a big kick out of the older ladies sorting through them to find the "good" ones as we thought they were all hideous. As I remember it the good ones were brightly printed, had the pearl snaps on the front and not the plain ones, and the rounded corner pockets were superior to the squared corner kind. Obviously you didn't want to be caught in a beige, chrome snap, square pocketed housecoat.

    Melodie

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  42. Love your blog, Peter. This is a timely topic, as I am now (finally) organizing my patterns, and came across 50's and 60's loungewear to-day. MY fabric cat is helping me type. I find lovely fabrics help with stress, and wore cotton kimonas from Japan when my children were little. I like a roomy size, and belt it. I did and do have some silky robes, and/or lounging pj's. My younger son "prefered" me very covered up with friends for sleepovers, and I could answer the door. As for the Indonesian daster (is that right?). Hubby bought me some amazing Indonesian pants, which I altered a bit, and I wear them mostly at home, but also out. I bought those Pakistani pants (pink and white stripped georgette) at a charity shop, and plan to wear at home too (especially in sewing room). Cathie, in Quebec.

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  43. I think the luxury housecoat is a fantasy created by television. On the show "Leave it to Beaver" which ran from 1957-1963 (for instance), Mrs. Cleaver always wore heels , a lovely dress and pearls to vacuum the carpet. She was a TV mom - I never saw that happen in real life.
    The real housecoats I saw were cute and comfy to hang out in around the house - I have one on now. No hausfrau outfits allowed.
    From The Left Coast

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  44. I do have a vintage silk dressing gown I used to wear often. Now its just track pants. Times have changed.

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  45. Peter,

    Great topic!

    My grandmother wore the patterned and flowery housecoats with the snaps that Melodie described. From the length, to the fabric, to the shapeless cut, not one attribute was flattering - oh, to hear someone openly search for a "good" one!

    In the 1970s my mother waged a campaign to get both Grandma, and Grandma's sister to wear jeans. Denim joined their wardrobes, but those house coats remained in the rotation.

    Then the 1980s happened, and punk gals in combat boots and spiked hair would sometimes wear those housecoats. There's a visual juxtoposition which has quietly lingered in my memory without a forum to share it in, until now.

    Seeing as the "housecoat" was born during economically challenging years, could it not be ripe for a revival.

    Could Cathy Lane soon be seen in a more bodyskimming update? Peter, are you our modern day Claire McCardle?

    Testosterone

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  46. I think housecoats going out of fashion could potentially have something to do with a) household climate control and insulation improving so they were less needed to keep warm. b) clothing got cheaper / became treated as disposable so it was less necessary to protect from wear and tear with a housecoat. c) some of both A and B. d) none of the above cause i'm full of it.

    those are just my theories.

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  47. Being a farmer's wife, I have very few opportunities to get dressed up to go out. So, I made the conscious decision to wear pretty things at home. For me that means during the day wearing one of the many vintage-style aprons I make, and in the evenings a silk or satin nightgown along with a housecoat. My favourite one for winter is quilted ruby red satin with shawl collar and full skirt. Most days I am in jeans and wellies, so it feels nice to find a time to look feminine.

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  48. I've never owned a housecoat, but I'd like to. I tend to have different categories of indoor-dressing. A bathrobe for 'just out of bed/the shower', old jeans and t-shirts for serious cleaning activities which would get my clothes dirty and (wait for it, this is the interesting part) full skirts or dresses which I will put on when I come home after work. My current job allows me to dress pretty much the way I want, but I used to be bound to wearing very a utilitarian 'uniform' of jeans and a company t-shirt. I would be longing for skirts and a bit of glamour by the time I got home...

    By the way, in the Netherlands, 'lounging' was quite the 'in' thing a couple of years ago. But not in the way you mean it here. It meant (and probably still means) a trend in going out. Clubs would have luxurious seating areas, and people would go there, on purpose, to hang around.

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  49. My relatives all wore their pin curls and victory rolls to perfection and draped in gorgeous house coats. This was back in the 40's.

    I really don't have lounging clothes. I wear what I have on, and if I am lazy I also wear them to bed.
    I don't own a pretty anything to lounge around in.
    They would be appalled if they saw what I wore.

    I had forgotten about housecoats, and to be honest, it doesn't sound like a bad idea in the hot weather.

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  50. I LOVE housecoats but I have none however I do have lots of patterns for them so I really should make some. I do spend time at home a lot as I work from home!

    I did have a stunning satin long dressing gown with huge detailed shoulders from the 40s once and i used to glide around the house in it, sadly I grew out of it - width wise that is!

    You have inspired me I WILL make a housecoat for this summer, thank you!

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  51. I love dressing gowns and am never without one. They are so simple to make and you can get whatever material you want. My current one is made out of pale stretch satin with fan shaped flowers. The blue and white Japanese cotton awaits.

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  52. Back in my highschool days I had a handful of old 60s housecoats and nighties I picked up at some secondhand store in Boston, but I would wear them, belted, cardiganned, accessorized and (usually) Doc-Martened, as school clothes! How gross, looking back on it...but what a cool kid I felt like at the time.

    I mostly wear my regular clothes or sweats and teeshirts in the house; I have roommates and as much as I do love the couple of nighties and the caftan I do have, something feels odd about wearing them around the boys...

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  53. I have a housedress that is almost identical to the rose colored one from the first pattern in the post, but blue. My mom made it for herself when dusters were in style, but didn't like it so I adopted it. I used to wear it all summer, as it was so cool, but it is in storage at my parent's house now as it didn't make the cut to come overseas with me. Thinking about it makes me feel all wistful, like remembering someone I once was...

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  54. Lovely to see that the humble housecoat has so many devotees even today. I made a (sort of) housecoat recently for my 89 year old mum, who wanted something she could slip on if the doorbell rang on a hot day when she was keeping cool in her nightgown. The pattern was a yoked short dressing gown. I used blue and white floral cotton, added big pockets and a pleated trim. While I admit that Mum is not quite as svelte and sophisticated as Cathy, I think her housecoat is almost glam enough for our favourite ex-con.

    I now spend a lot of my life in T-shirts and jeans or leggings, but as a child I spent hours in my mum’s red velvet evening coat from the 1930s. It was supposed to be my dressing gown and used at bedtime, but I spent many daylight hours in it, walking up and down the corridor smoothing the pile and listening to the swish of its train. Alas, I threw it out when I reached the age of sweeping the corridors with a broom not a housedress!

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  55. I would love to own a housecoat. Comfy, ultra feminine and glamorous at the same time! Now I am on a mission to get a housecoat pattern! Let's bring them back!

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  56. I LOVE the yellow version on the Simplicity 3389! I want to make that for myself...possibly as a dress version, too.

    I had a roommate long ago with an inherited (from her Grandmother) robe that was almost identical to the top Advance one that you have shown. It was made of a perfectly deep red velveteen and I stole/borrowed it whenever I could. I felt like Scarlet O'Hara in that thing.

    When I lounge around my apartment, it is usually in lingerie since I adore the stuff. In some more recent emergency awareness prep, I have realized how odd that could be if I was caught like that. Maybe what I need is to make myself one of these lovely robes for additional coverage while lounging.

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  57. I saw a movie called Mulholland Drive a very long time ago - pre-1995. Kim Basinger was wearing a white satin dressing gown, which I adored. The next day, I went to the fabric store, bought 10 yards of a lovely black floral polyester chiffon, and made myself a version of that dressing gown. It looks very much like that first pattern, the Advance one. I've made a couple others since I've been writing my blog, including one last summer. Currently, what with winter weather just departing, I'm lounging about my house in a purple stretch velvet dressing gown. Search my sewing projects to see; I think you'll be amazed at how similar mine is to the Advance one. So, yes, there is at least one lady left in the world wearing a fancy dressing gown, and loving every minute of it.

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  58. I think of housedresses as being different than lounge wear - they're worn as work wear, but inside the house, usually for laundry, housecleaning, etc. I used to have a couple of thrifted housedresses and I wish I'd kept them - they're great especially on hot days. I should make myself some more.

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  59. I've just bought the last pattern shown in your post (Simplicity 3475) which brought me to this page. I have a lot of housecoat patterns from the 30s to the 70s, the 60s/70s ones I bought for coat patterns (some of them have coat versions on the envelope), the 1940s always seem to make good dresses and the 30s and 50s just set the heart aflutter with their glamour.

    I own a deep red velveteen housecoat very much like the right hand Advance robe, except mine has long sleeves and it has a lace motif on the the left breast. I love wearing it around the house, I feel "suitably dressed" in it although only for the house and garden! It does get odd looks from the postman though! I recall my mother had a yellow terry-towelling gown in the 70s/80s which looked similar to the earlier 40s style of robe, it was very shapely.

    I also own a later silky rayon kimono in peacock colours for hot days or post-bath which also evokes a sense of glam, it does feel like I should be supping cocktails in it! I also have a few caftans after being heavily pregnant in summer educated me as to their benefits! I also am creating a stock of cotton housedresses (40s and 50s based) to throw on in the mornings ready for a day with todzilla.

    I have a brushed cotton floral bedsheet (also vintage) waiting to be made into one of these gorgeous full skirted 1950s housecoats. I'm pretty sure they require crinolines too to get that shape!

    I think the housecoat simply evolved into the modern dressing gown/bathrobe. The housecoats of the 60s to 80s seemed to be split between what we now call dressing gowns and what were shapeless, fugly uniforms (the gingham version of the warehouse coat) for housewives as opposed to the glamourous lounging (dressing) gowns of earlier decades.

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    1. Thanks for the great comment, Molly!

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