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Housecoat and dressing gown

 
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Reading A Christmas Carol, Scrooge comes home and puts his dressing gown on over his clothes.   Later on, he goes to bed without undressing.  Which makes me think that dressing gowns aren't the pink lacy things we know today.  So I did some reading and I am impressed.

To start with, a "dressing gown" in Scrooge's time is what my family call a "housecoat".  However, talking with people from different parts of the world, this is a really unusual concept.  So let me explain what I mean so we can be on the same page.

A housecoat looks like a bathrobe that isn't made out of a towel.  It's a knee-length garment, open at the front, and tied at the waist with a sash or belt.  You wear it over your clothes (daytime clothes or nighttime clothes).  It keeps the wearer warm and protects the clothes from dirt or smells.  Like cooking smells.  This was more common in a time when a person's "clothes" were the only clothes they had.  They had one set of clothes and if they weren't' rich enough to have Sunday Clothes, they went around naked on wash day.  

I don't know if a housecoat is a purely British thing, but looking at some books from the mid-1800s, Dressing Gowns were for men.  It was common for dressing gowns to have a similar shape to whatever outside coat was fashionable at the time.  Here's an example of early 1800s dressing gown patterns.



An interesting part of the gown's job was to keep the wearer warm.  This was during the end of the Little Ice Age in Europe and it was common to have to crack the ice on the basin of water if you wanted to wash your face before bed.  You held the inkwell in your hand to thaw it before writing.  

It looks like these were often quilted for additional layers of insulation.  

Anyway.  I just wanted to mention these since apparently they aren't common anymore, and get the conversation started.  
 
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So an apron and a "Snuggy" in one?
It would also protect bedding from anything that was on the streetwear.

We tend to do the opposite these days,  cover our "regular" clothes with overalls, coverall, coats, etc, before we go out into the world.

Of course ,most of the first world also has plenty of clothing,running water, automatic washing machines and homes that are climate controlled.

I have worn layers  clothing to bed in order stay warm but found a layer of clothing isn't as warm as a layer of blanket.
On the other hand, you can't walk around in a blanket and dealing with candles or fireplaces in a blanket is a bad idea
 
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William Bronson wrote: On the other hand, you can't walk around in a blanket and dealing with candles or fireplaces in a blanket is a bad idea

Actually, a lot of more modern (last 80 years) house coats were made of cotton or artificial fabrics rather than wool. They also tended to have wide sleeves and bulky cuffs. Both of these could create dangerous situations around open flames of fires, candles or cooking and resulted in bad burns. At one point the "Powers that Be" tried to convince people to influence the fashion industry by only buying house coats with narrow elastic cuffs -  I can remember seeing ads to that effect maybe the 1980's?
 
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As a kid, I always had a housecoat.  It was usually made out of corduroy.  My dad had a robe.  The robe was made out of a blanket type fabric.  Both the housecoat and the robe were of a similar style.  It was a long-sleeved wrap with a tie belt.  I still have ankle-length housecoats of various materials usually given to me at Christmas from my daughter.

During the day my mother always wore a housedress.  It was like a short-sleeved shift, buttoned down the front with no belt and usually made of cotton.
 
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I think some of this is regional/ ethnic. My mother was European.  She always wore a housecoat.  It was a plain button down shift type thing.  It went over other types of clothing. Usually in the morning over pajamas. You might cook breakfast in it for the family.  But you wouldn’t want the neighbors to see you in it.

Her house dresses were similarly plain cotton garments but were dresses for daily wearing when one was working around the house not entertaining or leaving the house. Friends might see you in a house dress if they happened by and were close friends.

Her dressing gowns were worn over sleepwear but nicer.  More relaxed, prettier.  Long or short. It might match your nightwear. You could wear your dressing gown to sit and read. But you wouldn’t cook in it like the housecoat.

Then there was the bed jacket.  When you lounged in bed you had your bed jacket on over the part not under the covers. If you were sick people could come visit you and you would wear your bed jacket for the visit. You covered up the décolleté.

It’s all different now.  No housecoats, no house dresses.  No hats on Sunday. It seems men and women pour themselves into athletic wear for days on end. I think we’ve lost the ability to slow down and enjoy a dinner with courses. With conversation.  

There used to be so much time to change clothes.  Cook family meals.  Use cloth napkins.

I really think we’ve lost part of what made life sweet.

 
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My mother, who was from Wales, always wore a 'pinny' in the house. I assume that was short for pinafore. My grandmother and aunts all wore them too. These were a sort of smock that covered the torso down to about hip level. My mother preferred a sleeveless version in a thin nylon or cotton fabric but that may have been a choice after we moved to Canada and lived in a house with central heating. I do recall my aunt who lived in a 200 year old stone house heated only by a coal fireplace in Wales wore pinnys in a heavier fabric and with sleeves. These were almost like a heavy lab coat in terms of fabric and construction.

I don't have any recollection of having worn a pinny as a small child but have been reliably informed that I did and knowing my mother's antipathy to any form of dirt, it would not surprise me.

I do remember knee-length heavy quilted dressing gowns worn over pyjamas when I was very young and we still lived in the stone house with my aunt and uncle in the 1960s. You'd put these on as soon as you got out of bed as the house was freezing until the fire was built up by the first person downstairs in the morning.


 
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As I type this I am sitting in my dressing gown, which is probably what the OP called a bathrobe. It's toweling and comes just below the knee, and I use it to top up the heat!
I rather suspect all these extra layers of clothes (and changing them) went away when we learnt how to heat our houses and most of us stopped having manual jobs. Round here if you are out at this time of year working all day you wear a huge padded boiler suit and that gets stripped off before you come in the house so yes we do it the other way round now.
 
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Andrea Locke wrote:My mother, who was from Wales, always wore a 'pinny' in the house.


My Irish grandmother wore something similar every single day as well .... call to my mother just now determined that she called it a housecoat!! A sleeveless smock-type thing with big pockets.
 
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My mother wore a housecoat when I was a child. It was thin cotton terry (not towel material, just light loops of cotton) and had a zipper front. It was worn in the morning, over night clothing, or in the evening, when she wanted to lounge around, as our house was too cold in the morning to not have one!  She was a farm child, so as a kid, had pinafores, etc. She had school clothes and farm clothes, and changed the moment she got home.

I had a pinafore my mother made me as a child, used for protecting fancy white flower girl dress I wore to a wedding from the snow and the dirt and the sand, then used for church dresses until I outgrew it.

My grandmother has aprons that are basically just cotton vests with snaps up the front. She wears them when at home to protect her good clothing from spills, and, if family are around for a casual meal, at mealtimes, etc.

Here is my great grandmother's apron. My mother recalls her wearing this whenever she was home or in the kitchen. It's made of flour sack material. My childhood pinafore was similar, made of an old bedsheet, but wrapped the back of the full skirt. I keep meaning to use this as a pattern to make my own apron.



I know the farm didn't have central heating for much of my mother's childhood, so not sure what was worn to keep people warm in the house. (Just asked - 'we got dressed', in warm clothes, socks, and shoes, with an apron or pinafore maybe to protect clothes)

I wonder if the dawn of the era of washing machines had as much to do with the demise of housecoats as the beginning of central heating? None of my family members had central heating in the era of this apron, but all had a washing machine.



 
Janet Reed
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If I may....I don’t think it’s central heating that has caused the demise of these clothing traditions.  Although it may have contributed. I think it’s the way society has changed and what we value as a society.

We throw everything away.  We don’t buy for beauty or longevity.  We just buy more.  We don’t “ make things.” We buy more things.

Tradition is gone by the wayside. Yes there are groups that value tradition but look at the bulk of people.  There is no tradition.

We throw our old people away.

Maybe permaculture should be revitalized as perma “culture.”

 
Jay Angler
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Catie George's wonderful picture of her grandmother's apron led to a little staff side conversation which led to a new thread!

Come and share your ideas for a perfect apron! Pictures and patterns are welcome!

https://permies.com/t/154065/sewing/fiber-arts/Sew-apron#1206499
 
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I've seen pictures of my grandmother and great-grandmother wearing sweaters with an apron over them.  These were taken before they had any kind of 'modern' heating other than a wood stove, but wood stoves do a better job of heating a small house than a fireplace. Either my mother or one of my daughters has a collection of aprons worn by different family members in the earlier parts of the 1900''s (Mom had them, but she was going to pass them on to my middle daughter -- not sure if she's already done that).  

I suspect that the housecoats in the OP were more for people who were at least somewhat well-off and not doing a lot of manual labor, as the length would make them inconvenient to work in. But they are a good idea for those of us who don't have central heating and have chilly houses (it's 49 degrees in my office right now -- we are bundled up and sitting in front of space heaters, so are quite comfortable).  We normally don't use bathrobes around the house, saving them for times when we have company or are traveling and want some additional modesty.  We are both wearing t-shirts, a sweater over that, and a sweatshirt over that, plus a knit cap to keep our heads warm.  I have the hood on my sweatshirt up, too, but my daughter doesn't like to have her hood up.  She also, weirdly, has a couple of loose t-shirts on over the top of everything else.  This has nothing to do with keeping warm, although it does help -- she does the same thing in the summer when it's hot if I don't watch her closely (she is severely mentally handicapped).  At this time of year, I won't make her take them off! For just sitting at the computer, the length of the housecoat would be nice, as it would protect most of your legs.

 
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My daughter has become a fan of Bernadette Banner; we were just watching her video on best historical costuming, and she gave high marks to the series 'Gentleman Jack" for portraying a character in a dressing gown which had been clearly constructed out of an older gown that had gone out of fashion.  Like taking a ballgown from several years ago and cutting it into a bathrobe.  The "dressing gown" in this case being worn by a distraught woman over her underclothes as lay-about-the-house wear.

At about 7:00 into the video below.

 
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