housedress

Posted on Facebook recently by Susan Fischer, this photo of her ca. age 3, in her blonde phase, with her mother. Her mother in a 1950s-era housedress, something you don’t see a lot of these days.

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(I noted that at this age I was blond myself. However, Susan’s and my blond(e) days are long in our pasts.)

From Wikipedia:

A house dress is a type of simple dress worn informally in the mornings at home for household chores or for quick errands. The term first originated in the late nineteenth century to describe at-home garments designed for maximum practicality and usually made from washable fabrics. It is directly descended from the Mother Hubbard dress. Such dresses were a necessary part of the housewife’s wardrobe in the early twentieth century and could be widely purchased through mail-order catalogues.

Although an informal garment, the house dress, particularly during the 1950s, was intended to be stylish and feminine as well as serviceable. The concept of attractive house dresses was popularised in the late 1910s by Nell Donnelly Reed, who established her house dress company in 1919. The company, renamed Nelly Don after Reed’s retirement, quickly became one of the most successful American clothing manufacturers of the 20th century. Some designers became known for house dress designs, such as Claire McCardell, whose 1942 ‘popover’ wrap dress was equally wearable as a house dress, a dressing-gown, a beach cover-up or even a party dress. The house dress version of McCardell’s popover came with a matching oven glove.

So what happened to the housedress? Nothing, really; you can still buy them. What’s mostly disappeared, however, is the housewife to wear them, someone whose mornings are taken up with doing household chores and running quick errands. A classic housewife:

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From Wikipedia:

A housewife is a woman whose main occupation is running or managing her family’s home—caring for and educating her children, cooking and storing food, buying goods the family needs in day-to-day life, cleaning and maintaining the home, making clothes for the family, etc.—and who is generally not employed outside the home.

… By the 1960s in western countries, it was becoming more accepted for a woman to work and be a “career girl” until she got married, when she should stop work and be a “housewife”. Many western women in the 1970s believed that this was not treating men and women equally and that women should do whatever job they were able to do, whether they were married or not.

At this time, women were becoming more educated. As a result of this increased education, some women were able to earn more than their husbands. In very rare cases, the husband would remain at home to raise their young children while the wife worked.

In the late 20th century, it became harder for a family to live on a single wage. Subsequently, many women were required to return to work following the birth of their children; however, they often continued the “homemaker” role within the family. It is becoming more commonplace for the husband and wife to be employed in paid work and both share in the “housework” and caring for the children. In other families, there is still a traditional idea that housework is only a woman’s job; so when a couple gets home from work, the wife works in the house while the man takes a rest.

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