Thursday, 30 June 2011

The mysterious laundry dress

First just a link. If you are interested in 1930’s fashion, then hop over to I read Isis’ Wardrobe. I have just made a post with photos on my grandmother from that decade. She was a very well-dressed young lady.

I have a little mystery for you. A very little mystery, I’m sure. On my list for the spring and summer clothes for years one a dress is listed that is called “tvättklänning” which would be laundry dress in English. Now I wonder, what is a laundry dress? I don’t know. My guess is that it is a white cotton dress that you could boil with your white laundry.

I have been nodding around the net and checked old encyclopedias for information. The encyclopedias give nothing. The net have provided a few things, all of them decades older than the 1940’s:

A paper on life in manor houses at the end of the 19th century describes how an upper class girl takes her first communion in 1877 in “a white laundry dress without trail”.
A novel from 1905 mention a laundry dress in passing.
Another novel from 1913 describes a maid as being dressed in “a short white laundry dress with a black silk apron”
A newspaper from 1917 mentions a lady in “a simple laundry dress and a sun bonnet”.

Those neither confirm nor debunk my guess. It seems, though, that it was a type of dress that had been used for at least some 70 years. In all probability a woman in the 1940’s knew exactly what kind of dress it was. Now I wonder, does anyone of you know?


Lina Sofia said...

how intriguing! Unfortunately I've never heard of it before either! Hope someone else has more information... :)

Johanna Öst said...

After looking through all of those Sears archives they definitely made a big deal of dresses being "washable" or "wash proof". There's a lot of "washable cotton" for example. Looking through them very quickly just now I came across these "cotton wash-suits": I would guess laundry dresses are easily washable cotton dresses, but not necessarily white.

handbuiltwardrobe said...

In British materials I have read references to "white washing material" and "wash dresses." Basically what you guessed--a white cotton or linen dress for summer, that can be kept fresh with frequent laundering. I believe it refers more to the material than to any particular style, though it would probably tend to be simple and easy to iron.

Wash dresses not specified as white can also mean house(work)dresses.

bonita said...

~ * ♥ * ~

How intriguing! I love the cool things I learn from reading your blog. I had never heard of a laundry dress before!

bonita of Depict This!
~ * ♥ * ~

Emelie said...

This is interesting. I reckon that normal sheets can't be used. Although they have a nice drape, many of them would be too see-trough. And if you want it to looks as the dress abobe you will need something stiffer but still softs.

I have neither heard about this before Alla kvinnor, but I certainly like the idea.

petalrose said...

I have several books on vintage textiles and one mentions the fact that during the thirties and early forties, cotton was unfashionable and most fashion dresses were made of silk and rayon. Hardwearing cotton was only used in everyday 'housework dresses' that could be washed again and again and childrens clothing. 'Laundry' often took up to several hours a day before washing machines became widespread and was not something you would wear good dresses for. Hope this helps.

Isis said...

Thank you everytone who has answered! Instead of making a longwinding reply to all your great input, I'm going to incorproate it in a new post in a day or so.

Spinneretta said...

I would have guessed the 'house dress' would have been the 'laundry' dress. A simple dress worn around the house to do the household chores. Interesting name and I can't wait to hear more :)

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