Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Comfort of a House Coat

Library of Congress: 1942 Nursing School Resident Hall  - Students Wearing House Coats

The fashion industry used to make such pretty robes for lounging at home. Mothers and daughters wore them at home to be comfortable and to look pretty.  In New England these are generally called "bathrobes."  In the south, the robes are known as "house coats."

In my childhood home, we girls received a new robe each year at Christmas time.  The women in our family always wore a robe or "house coat" when at home. My mother had a few different kinds.  There were light cotton fabrics, with little flowers or decorations, with shorter sleeves for summer.  Her winter robes were warm and long, often with a zipper in the front. These were often navy blue or purple and were warm and pretty.  We children always felt safe and happy when mother wore her house coat, because that was a sign to us that she was not going out.  Mother would not step out the door unless she had gotten all dressed up. So we knew she was home with us and comfortable. It gave us a sense of security.

When we girls, my sister and I, would go spend the night at our Aunt's house, we would pack our robes in our suitcases.  Our Aunt had a beautiful guest room for us with rich furnishings and lovely, delicate decorations. We felt rich in that room, with our pretty house coats.  It gave us a bit of elegance to "dress" in something pretty designed just for being at home.

These days the modern look seems to be very casual, almost to the point of sloppy. Old clothes worn around the house seems to offer the new form of comfort.  But this was not the way it used to be.

Each year I try to buy my grown daughters a pretty new robe or a nice nightgown.  I am also doing this with my granddaughters.  There is a tradition from previous generations that we can dress up even in our pajamas, in the form of lovely house coats and lounging robes.

 Library of Congress:  1975 White House Living Quarters-                                                                                                    First Lady Betty Ford with her husband and Daughter, wearing House Robes

It helps make the home culture extra special when one has pretty things to wear in order to relax and enjoy time with the family.

 It helps send a message that we are not going to worry about the bills, the trials, or the outside world when we are at home in our pretty house coats. We are just going to relax and take a much needed break to refresh our spirits before facing the world again.

This is a wonderful example to set for husband and children to help quiet and calm the household with the gentling comfort of a house coat.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

Remembering my Aunt's House - Manners Learned at the Finishing School.

A Special Room - Grandmother's Nursery.

Early in the Morning - The Foundation of Cleaning.

Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers - "Mother's Book of Home Economics."

An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email. 



Anonymous said...

Oh Mrs. White, thank you for sharing about the house coat! I just love this and I think the girls look so pretty in the nursing school. Makes me a bit sad that ladies don't regularly wear them? I don't shop much, but I can't recall seeing many at the stores. Well, all the more reason to keep on with the old timey ways with our cherished families. I pray all is well your way..

Tammy said...

I love your posts. They are always sweet, instructional and old fashioned, in a pertinent, up to date, way. Thank you for this.
I have a thick robe I use in winter, but for summer I stick to shorts and Ts, or a comfy gown. I used to have a housecoat, but I wore it out and never replaced it. I think I'll get myself a cute housecoat to replace it!

Mimi said...

What lovely memories in your post. I agree. Housecoats need to have a revival! Mimi xxx

Laura Lane said...

A lovely, thought-provoking post as always my friend! I do not currently own a housecoat or robe. When my last one wore out, I didn't have the opportunity (funds) to replace it. There's always something we need that takes precedence. ~smile~ Maybe one day. It would be warmer in the winter, that's for sure!

Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

CountryGirl said...

I have seen old ladies wear house coats and I thought it was because they were too lazy or sloppy to get dressed! None of the women in my family wore housecoats. I do think I remember my father's mother wearing one once, but it was for warmth as she was old and had to wear many layers to keep warm. I only ever saw her a few times as we lived in opposite corners of the country. My mother grew up on a cattle ranch and we lived there a bit when I was young. Being awake meant being outdoors, so neither my mother nor my grandma ever wore a housecoat. I think my mother now wears one occasionally when she is cold in the evenings before bed. Your post has made me think I need one as I usually rarely get showered and dressed before 10 as I have elementary age children and an infant and it is difficult to get them ready for school, the baby fed and napped and myself dressed all at once!

Anonymous said...

How timely! I am going in for surgery tomorrow. Today I went and bought a nice robe. It's soft, plush, white and goes almost to my ankles. I just want to wrap up in it and lay down. I suppose I will do a lot of that after surgery.
Glad for your post,

Rhonda said...

In my part of the country, we call them "robes" but I really like the name housecoat.
My mother always wore robes in the early morning or evening and I sometimes do.
I sewed a really pretty one a few years from pi wale corduroy, a black background with tiny flowers on it. But I don't the style. It buttons at the top and then is just open the rest of the way. I looked into alternating it with a zipper or belt but the way it is cut, it can't be. I have more of the fabric, you made me decide to shop for a new pattern and sew up a new one before cold weather comes back.

The photo of president Ford with his wife and daughter is so sweet. He was President when I was in high school and Susan and I were in the same grade.

Jennifer said...

Mrs. White,
How lovely to read about the housecoats, or robes, as we call them. My grandmother and mother always wore housecoats in the mornings and evenings and it made me so happy to see them that way. My grandmother made a beautiful floral flannel gown and robe for me every year for Christmas. I always looked forward to that. I wish that girls these days wore prettier and more lady-like pajamas and robes, but at least I can still do it. :-) You have inspired me to make or buy myself a pretty new "housecoat." Thank you!

Deborah Montgomery said...

I love wearing a comfy robe in the evening when it is chilly and I am reading a book. And a pretty robe is a must if you are staying overnight with family or friends.
Your posts are always full of home and comfort. I enjoy stopping by!

Mary Ann said...

Good afternoon ! This is proving to be an interesting post! My mother wore a housecoat, or as she called it a "duster" when she got out of bed in the morning before she had her shower. She would also wear it in the evening after all her work was done and she would relax before bed. She would never had worn it during the day time hours hours. We only wore "night clothes" during the day if we were too sick to dress.

Kind of interesting reading everyone's thought on this!

Lana said...

I am always dressed when I am up and being in any sort or pajamas or robe makes me feel like I am sick. I put on clean, presentable clothing every morning. Also, I am in and out of the house all day and would not go out into the yard in anything but clothes. What do you do if someone comes to the door? I would feel as if I were in nightclothes. Here in SC you sometimes see people out in public in pajamas and that is considered the ultimate in sloppy so I would feel that way if someone were to show up here at the house. The only time I put on anything but clothes when we are up is when we are on vacation and in for the night. Then I put on pajamas that are comfortable for lounging. Still thinking this one through but not thinking I would change a thing about my daily dress.

Sarah said...

My grandmother still wears a housecoat every early morning and late evening. She matches it to her nightgown and to her sheets! But, as far as I know, no one in my family (I only know for sure back to my great grandmother who was born in 1910) has ever worn them during the day while in good health.

Anonymous said...

My mother never wore them...but my grandmother did. Both in the early morning and the evening. It made her feel very comfortable and it was made of the softest cotton.

Thank you Mrs. White for such a lovely post.


Deborah said...

I've always had a housecoat, from the time I was a child....a long time ago! Now, I find I am using it less and less...choosing daytime PJs instead. Yes, I suppose a little sloppy, but easier to answer the door to an unexpected guest. Loved your post!

Michelle said...

I have a new perspective on robes and housecoats. Thank you for that little history lesson. It's interesting to me that seeing your mother in her housecoat was comforting to you. I don't think I'll ever look at my robes the same way again, and I'll probably take more care in choosing them, and giving them, too.

Lisa Beth W. said...

My mom also has what she calls a "duster" but she also has a "robe". The duster is for summer and is lighter, and her robe is long and warm and cozy. She is a hard-working woman , and at the end of a day, she likes to put her p.j.s on and then her duster or robe, and relax. :) It makes me feel good to see her in them b/c it means she's allowing herself to slow down and prepare for the night, and that she's very comfortable. She would never go outside in it, but she wouldn't mind answering the door in it b/c they are decent and presentable. But not too many people would come calling at that time of the night, anyway!

Emily said...

I love how you count the blessing of the cozy, soft house coat. I was just wearing one, and they are so comforting, cozy, and relaxing.

Grace and Tea For Me said...

Dear Mrs. White:

What a lovely article you have posted concerning house coats. Thank you!

It makes me want to wear mine this evening after all the work is done and it is time to relax.


Mrs. B

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