Monday, 18 April 2011

The housedress

When I first started to toy with the idea of making a 1940’s wardrobe I dismissed the idea of making a house dress without really thinking about it. Then Evis pointed out that housedresses really are very practical to wear at home and I remembered all the pretty ones she has made, like this one, and I realized that my prejudices had got the better of me. You see, when I hear the word house dress I see a shapeless monstrosity in nylon that always seems to be a bit unwashed and slightly smelly. Something along the lines of this:

Then I started to look around for the forties idea of a housedress, or coat, I found something vastly prettier than what my brain had conjured up.

To me, these dresses can be easily worn as summer frocks, and I am sure that I will do that with the ones I make, but they are designed to be practical to work in and basically there seems to be three things that a housedress requires.
1. Easy to wash. Household chores gives you ample of opportunities to get dirty and a housedress need to be easy to wash, which is probably that nylon was so popular in my childhood, as you don’t even to iron it. But in the forties, cotton was the way to go, even if rayon was used as well.
2. Easy to slip on and off. A housedress could be worn on its own, but also to protect a good dress. Most housedresses I have seen sports buttons down the front, but zippers was also used or wrap-fronts.
3. Storage facilities, i.e. pockets. Really useful when you totter around the house, actually.

Of course, a perfectly ordinary dress can feature one or two of these design elements, but perhaps I’m not too far-fetched if I say that if a dress has all three, then it is a housedress.


Cinquefoil said...

And besides beign practical, those 40's ones are just so darn cute! :)

Isis said...

Indeed they are!

Casey Maura said...

I have that first pattern you pictured! :) It was one of my first 40s patterns; still have to make it up though. ;)

I love how practical AND pretty housedresses from this era can be. I really love the styles and need to focus on adding some into my wardrobe. :)

♥ Casey

Isis said...

Casey: I have Decades of Style's reproduction of it- I'm currently making it up. :) I think it will be a very pretty summer dress. And I agree, practical doesn't have to mean un-pretty and these housedresses proves it!

Anonymous said...

I have several housedress patterns. I think the patterns are great for making summer dresses, since they are often perfect for light and airy fabrics. Plus, as Cinquefoil said they're just too cute to pass up.

Ns said...

Most of my vintage patterns are for house dresses. I love that they're just casual enough, without being sloppy.

(Though, yes, totally. That nylon "house coat" up there was like, the Old Lady day uniform when I was a kid. Except she's missing one of those snapping cigarette pouch things and hair rollers.)

Isis said...

Verityclothing: Indeed!

Nicki: LOL, yes, that is how I remembered old ladies too. Eternal rolls in tehir hair. :)

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