Friday, July 28, 2006

House Dresses


Women's Housedresses, 1921. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties: As Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs. Ed. Stella Blum. NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1981. p. 39.

These were usually worn with aprons when cooking or cleaning. My mother in law had an ordinary apron, with a bodice, that slipped over the head, for hard work and cleaning, and a company apron, usually the same style, made of lace or crochet, for meal time preparations when there was company. She removed the apron to answer the door or before sitting down to eat.

The dress style changed slightly in the 50's, with the skirt being a bit more of a circle, rather than so straight, and the apron being only waist high.

Will answer the schedule of home routines, in due time.

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34 comments:

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Even the homestead women who were settling the lakes and valleys of the area where I grew up, wore house dresses. The jeans were reserved for really rough outdoor work and they didn't like for people to see them. If they did see someone they would apologize for being in jeans!

Anonymous said...

The dresses have some details to them which make them both feminine (ie.,collars, bows, waistbands) and practical (ie.,pockets,three-quarter length sleeves). And the hairstyles were softly curled or pinned up. Those spike heels don't look too comfy though for housework!

Donna said...

I've been watching the Waltons on DVD here lately and Grandma Walton and Mrs. Walton always have their house dresses and aprons on and they both look so pretty.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

These are not spiked heels. Those came into fashion in the 1950's, along with more pointed toes. The style here is from the 1920's. Their shoes resembled the heels of the lace up boot that they wore in the previous decades--shorter and wider than the spiked heel.

Anonymous said...

I remember my mother wearing house dresses with aprons. Today she only wears dresses/skirts to church. It pains me to see older women who I am certain wore dresses only as a child and as a young adult wearing pants and sweats while out. In addition, their boyish, closely cropped hair detracts from their femininity.

Anonymous said...

It is somewhat comforting to read about women wanting to dress nicely for working around the house. I don't know where I got the thoughts I had as a child, but, It really bothered me to see my mother dress so poorly all the time. It was to not ruin her good clothing when doing housework. The only time she looked nice was for church, or special occasions. And always changed immediately on return from a special occasion, complaining that she wanted to feel comfortable. She stayed this way.
A matter a fact, recently, while visiting my home, she commented on a dress I had hanging in my bathroom on a hook. It was a lucky purchase for me. A lovely summer dress. At night, when my husband returns home, I wear this dress quite often, after a refreshing evening shower. It is so comfortable, and I feel like a woman wearing it. His reaction to me looking nice is a blessing. I told my mom that I use the dress quite a bit. I told her it is like a housedress for me. She said it is a housedress for a wealthy woman, giving me the feeling that it was too snazzy to wear at home. There was a feeling of resistance in her tone. This puzzles me so much about my Mother. In all my mother's pictures, up until she got married, my Mother dressed like a lovely woman. She dressed the way movies portray feminine, modest women in movies of the late 50's. My Mother was not a wealthy woman, but, she knew how to look very sharp. And she even dressed me and my little sister very nicely when we were young. We were always dressed in clean, neat dresses and little girlie outfits. Our hair was nicely combed, sometimes we had ribbons. She still was not well off, but, managed to keep us looking quite nice. Then, it seems something was lost. This has always puzzled me.
What caused women to change so much? It just puzzles me. Some of it is our culture, but, it seems there is something else as well.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

A lot women in that age group have feminism inside them, and don't realize it.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Going to work was part of the big change in women. Their morning routine changed from getting the home and family ready for a day at home, to getting themselves ready to leave for work.

littlejennywren said...

I love the illustration of housedresses. Do you know where it is possible to get patterns for these kinds of dresses from the twenties and thirties. My mother wore dresses and skirts all the time when I was young with the occasional pair of capri pants. After she started a part-time job when I was a teenager she only wore skirts for work or when going out to a special function, the rest of the time she wore trousers or trackpants. Now that she is in her seventies she never wears dresses or skirts at all and her friends are the same; short hair and trousers are the order of the day.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

the people you speak of who used to wear dresses but now only wear pants and have shaved or extremely short hair, were affected by the feminists in the 60's who tried to "liberate" women from the home and from their feminine clothing. They wanted women to look more like men, because they were envious of men.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

...but also, the fashions were so strongly promoted that in order to fit in, many women that age went along with them, not realizing that as you grow older, those hairstyles and patterns are not flattering.

Anonymous said...

I remember when it was a big deal for us kids in the third grade, (I would have been between the age of 8 and 9 years of age, it must have been in 1968) when the dress code changed for puplic school in our state. Girls could now wear pants to school. If we had only understood what was really going on for women.
It surprises me that women don't just want to wear dresses on their own. We watched some old home movies. My sister in law is now in her 50's. We watched the movie and observed how delighted my sister-in-law was to be wearing her first communion dress. She mentioned how much she LOVED her dress. She felt like she was beautiful. It brought back memories of how I used to feel too. There was a dress I hated to wear, because to me it looked like a male shirt. I was in first grade. It is amazing to me, that we felt this way about being girls and what we were wearing at such young ages.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Simplicity, Butterick, McCalls, Vogue and other pattern companies now have a Vintage pattern section where they feature some of the old patterns. You can also still buy them in antique stores and even Goodwill, but you cannot be sure of the sizes, as standard measurements may have changed since their publications. Your best bet is the ones from Sensibility.com (the garden party dress) and the sewing catalogs vintage sections. Folkwear, Harper House, and other catalogs on the web have some of these patterns.

BarbaraLee said...

It is good to read that so many of you feel that a womans clothing is dressing in dresses and not like a man. Now a days it is hard to find dresses or skirts. I'm trying to improve on my sewing so that I can make my dresses. I have found skorts that work nicely for housecleaning and outtings. They are a lot more femine then plain shorts. Unfortunely I have to help my husband in the shop because we can't seem to hire a dependable employee. We self employed and pants are kind of a must. We do staining & sanding of millwork so it gets messy. I guess that could start another subject with women in the work force. We don't belong there. We are not physically fit to handle it and we have way to much to do in the house.

MrsSM said...

Thank you so much for posting this picture! I love the variations in the collars, especially, and can see endless possibilities for making attractive dresses to wear around the house. I definitely want to keep this for future reference. It was really encouraging and inspiring to me. Lately I've been feeling discouraged about what I wear; I certainly don't want to look frumpy, but since I switched to dresses and skirts a few years ago, I've had trouble finding my groove, so to speak. This gives me something to try and the hope and encouragement to keep on going.

Anna said...

A topic so dear to my heart!

Lanetzliving.com has the widest and cheapest selection of vintage patterns I have ever come across. The dresses are sorted by type, decade, or bust size (so useful!) and there are many lovely dresses from the fifties and sixties that can be made for wearing as housedresses. I have been making them myself and posting pictures on my blog--such fun! I love dressing in them for my day at home, although to go out for errands and appointments I will generally change into a more tailored skirt and knit top--not so shocking to modern eyes.

Anna
pleasantviewschoolhouse.blogspot.com

Shannon said...

This was a wonderful little post. My grandmother who would have been 87 this last June always wore an apron when she cooked, but rarely a dress.

I have a picture of here with her older sister. My grandmother cannot be more than 15 and I showed this picture to my great-aunt and immediately she started telling me and other family members about how my grandmother was a "tom-boy". Despite my great-grandparents dressing her like a girl when she was younger, she eventually won out I guess you would call it. My great-grandfather made the other girls wear skirts or dresses, but my grandmother was generally in overalls with a very short hair cut. Which she wore until her death.

BTW my great-aunt in this picture looks like she is wearing a dress, I thought it was until she pointed out it was instead indeed a pair of pants that were just very full. The closest thing she came to wearing pants while at home.

Anna said...

I was born in the late forties. All the women and girls wore dresses. In 6th grade the girls were told to wear slacks in the morning for gym class {and the gym classes were girls only, boys gym class was on anothr day than ours}but to change back to dresses when we went home for lunch break. I remember feeling very odd wearing slacks to school..and they were girl style slacks having side zippers...only boys slacks had a fly front.

Anonymous said...

Due to my personal situation, I work outside the home - since I have no children to suffer, I sought out a work situation that I can control entirely. I own and operate a shop specializing in women's accessories, gifts, art, crafts, much of which I make myself or which is made by women who are at home but need supplemental income. Because of the nature of my inventory, I have a parade of women of all ages going in and out of the shop all day long. I have to say that I am often stunned to near speechlessness by the slovenly appearance of older women! Whoever has conned so many older ladies into wearing their hair so it looks like a bristly hedgehog has much to answer for. I can think of no hairstyle as unflattering to an aged face.

One thing that I have noticed by overhearing conversations involving these older ladies is contempt for anything attractive or pretty. If they are with someone who is drawn to a beautiful scarf or necklace, they'll invariably say something negative, like "that'll just get in your way" or "that necklace would be so heavy on your neck". I had one woman in the shop the other day who had something ugly to say about every single thing her companion looked at - and she constantly said that she just couldn't be bothered with: scarves, jewelry, gloves, hair clips or barrettes, hats, etc. She said that jewelry drove her crazy, she couldn't stand so much as a bobby pin in her hair, scarves were a nuisance, gloves were "old fashioned", etc. And yes, she was wearing the ubiquitous saggy tracksuit with underwear that wasn't doing its job, a buzz cut shorter than many men's crew cuts, and her face was weathered and browned to the point where it looked like a catcher's mitt.

This woman could not have been any older than my mother, who is 74, so she was raised with a sense of appropriateness of clothing, and must have worn pretty things at some time in her life. If I hadn't heard her voice, I would have thought that she was a very unattractive and ill-dressed old man! How did that generation turn around so completely, to the point where they feel as if wearing something more than enough sacky stretch clothes to cover their body is somehow frivolous and ridiculous?

She's not the only one. This attitude seems to be endemic with older women - and I can't tell if it stems from depression because they have made themselves so unfeminine or unattractive and they have to face their appearance in the mirror each day, or if they truly don't care how they look or how others perceive them, or if they bought into feminism along the way.

Calla Lilly said...

I can remember my mother wearing housedresses when I was small; she always looked so pretty. My grandmother always bathed and dressed nicely in the afternoon, just before time for my grandfather to come home. Even after he retired, she kept this practice and "dressed" for dinner.

Rosie said...

I too love the housedress picture very much,I always wear femine dresses,skirts and blouses or tops in pretty colours.The skirts are always ankle length,I have dressed like this all my life and many people comment how they love my style,no one has ever said I look odd wherever I go.Aprons are another obsession and I have one to go with every outfit(many bought from US via ebay.I'll never understand why women want to have all their hair cut off,long hair is so much more attractive and versatile !!

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Yes, what a disappointment for young women: the older ones looking so crass and so masculine, sounding so terrible also. No wonder the younger ones follow the fashions of the stars and the musicians. At least those fashions are trying to be feminine, even though immodest. If they had a choice, who would follow the example of the older women? Who wants to look like that? According to Titus 2, the older women are to be examples to the younger. Is it any wonder the younger ones go their own way? The older generation coming on the scene (probably you and I) are going to have to be courageous and give the younger ones a better example. No wonder the young people are so depressed, when they see an older generation of women that looks so awful and behaves so badly...we can do better!

mrsbrand said...

I have a slightly different view of some of the older women in my community that I would like to share with you.

Most older women (in their 70's and older) were I live wear mostly pants or slacks and also have short hair. A few are very sloppy and look like old men but most don't. They go weekly to the hair dresser to get their hair done and even though it is short they would never dream of going out in public without their hair curled and lip stick on.

Also in regards to their choice of clothing, they choose very bright colors and really try to look snazzy even though they are in trousers.

I agree that they would look so much prettier in dresses. However I think a lot of women seldom wore pants in my area when they were young because life required them to be on horseback so much and working in the field or forest.

littlejennywren said...

When I wrote earlier that my mother had adopted the uniform of wearing trousers on most occasions I didn't mean to give the impression that she is in any way an ardent feminist. I think it really is a fashion thing, that is what she sees around her and what others of her generation wear. She does not have excessively short hair but it is short and neat. In all other ways she is a very feminine woman, an excellent mother and grandmother and a champion of a child's right to a stable loving home. Her home is never without fresh flowers and home cooking and is always welcoming and comforting. We shouldn't judge people by what we have decided is appropriate clothing, fashions may swing around again and modest dresses may again become fashionable.My mother and I'm sure many of her generation, those born in the 1920s & 1930s,have been and still are wonderful examples of kind, hardworking,loving homemakers.

Anonymous said...

Yes I find it best not to be overly critical of these women, and just to make changes in yourself. We can't change the look of women (which is pretty bad all around, despite the few nice ones like your mother and mine), but we can change ourselves and be a good example. I quit wearing pants because I discovered that they drew attention to the personal and private areas where they were the most form fitting. You can observe how the guys look at the girls by watching where they eyes travel...I grew increasingly uncomfortable with that and noticed that when I wore a long skirt I didn't draw any of that uneasy attention...

Anonymous said...

Good blog here on modesty:

http://girltalk.blogs.com/girltalk/modesty/index.html

Liked what they had to say about wedding attire. I have attended weddings that embarrassed me so badly I could not look up at anything, just down at the floor. These women looked more like they were going to a bar or cabaret than a wedding.

Mrs. Melody said...

I had a neighbor who used to wear a house dress. My own mother wore pants or shorts and modified bowling shirts or sleeveless button down shirts in the winter.

My own opinion is to wear something nice, like a dress or skirt, but it doesn't have to be a frumpy "uniform"... Does that make sense?

Mrs. Melody said...

oops. I meant to say summer in the above comment.

Anonymous said...

I love wearing dresses and skirts all the time. I believe it is just feminine and makes me feel like a woman. I think it is hard to wear jeans and other masculine cloths and then just switch and be feminine again. Clothing really does make a difference in movement and attitude. The way we carry ourselves, and I think as women we should be feminine ALL the time.
In todays society as women have become more like men in dress and action and demeanor, the only thing that the younger generation has to differentiate is to wear LESS clothing, so to reveal a body that is female....It is so, so sad and a terribly thing for them to be caught up with, they do need the older women to set examples. I know that men seem to notice me more when I am wearing pretty clothing, not just to look at a body....

plainandsimple said...

I've always worn skirts and dresses (with the occasional pair of linen trousers) and I'd love to say I've worn them because of Christian modesty - but that's not the truth. I wear them becuase I look awful in jeans. I am a UK size 16 (US size 12) and about 25lbs overweight. I carry this weight, like a lot of British women, on my hips and thighs. When I wear jeans I look frumpy and fat, but a calf length A line skirt, or something bias cut shaves off quite a few pounds.

Wearing clothes that suit your figure type takes some thought but it really pays off. I also have a large bust and a small waist so if I were to wear tight jeans and a t-shirt I would feel a little over-exposed.

I think that women in the past dressed to suit their figures and knew about the power of good underwear! In reality there are very few women who look good in jeans, not many of us are blessed with long, perfect legs.

Regarding the way older women dress, I must admit I've not noticed older women in the UK dressing badly. Many of them have an old fashioned 1950s perm but still wear dresses and look smarter than their 30 something granddaughters, who tend to wear clothes that are either too tight or baggy joggers, t-shirt and no bra underneath!

Lisa Cress said...

I think we should reward/encourage women who make the effort to look pleasant and feminine even when it's not a special occasion. Ladies Against Feminism had some cards to hand a woman you saw who exibited feminine qualities:
http://www.ladiesagainstfeminism.com/artman/publish/article_202.shtml
And I've also found that the more I wear skirts and fix my hair around people whom I see a lot, the more they absorb that sense of fashion, too.
To God be all glory,
Lisa

ladynicole said...

Anna, thanks for suggesting Lanetzliving.com. That's such a great place for affordable patterns!:-)

clementine said...

I began wearing dresses while pregnant with my second son during a very hot summer in an effort to keep cool. To my surprise, not only was it comfortable and practical, but I felt more feminine and happier in my role as wife and mother. Even now, when it seems the situation requires wearing trousers, I can't bear to wear them as they make me feel masculine and aggressive. Somehow I manage to do all housework and even go camping, in a skirt. People do notice (I'm usually the only mother at the school gate in a skirt) but so far, all comments have been positive!

Anonymous said...

I found a lovely site called www.purefashion.com . It is wonderful for young women who want to look feminine and modest. It was started by a former model who wanted to help young women be beautiful, modest, and feminine. It is targeted to grades 8th through 12th and they have fashion shows etc.

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