I got several excellent suggestions to my mysterious laundry dress. Thank you! From it I think that my translation probably isn’t the best. I think washable dress would be better. This may refer to a housedress as they would be pretty useless if there weren’t washable, but I don’t think the washable white dress that I have on my wardrobe list are meant to be a housedress. First because there are several housedresses there too, already specified as such and second because it is to be white. White, even if it’s easy to wash, is a very unpractical colour to do household chores in. There’s a third reason, one that I had plain forgotten about when I wrote the previous post. For the spring/summer wardrobe in year four, the washable dress springs up again, but this time in light blue silk noil. That’s a silk that you can wash yourself- you can even machine wash it, if you don’t mind that it will fade a bit in colour, but it’s definitely not a fabric you use for housedresses. So it seems very likely that a laundry dress, or rather a washable dress, are meant to be an easy care summer dress.
That it is pointed out in decades before the forties that a dress is washable isn’t perhaps so odd when you think about it. We are so used that everything can be washed, if not by yourself, the by dry cleaning. Dry cleaning have been around since the 19th century, but up until the 1920’s that involved highly flammable and smelly substances, like petroleum, that you probably wouldn’t trust your precious clothes with. In the 1940’s dry cleaning was an option, but only a few decades earlier you didn’t wash your clothes much. They were brushed, spots removed and aired. What you did was laundry was your underclothes, linen and cotton things that could withstand boiling and scrubbing. So to call a simple summer dress that could withstand such vigorous washing as just washable was probably quite a practical pointer to its care. A pointer with its use in the 1940’s too. Silk and wool may seem obvious that they need dry cleaning, but one of the problems with many of the man-made fibers that was invented during the 30’s and 40’s was that they become brittle when they become wet and could not be laundered at home.
( Johanna kindly provided me with this picture of “cotton wash-up” dresses from Sears.)