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?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!