A stepchild of fashion, the humble house dress has been worn in one form or another for centuries. When women's fashionable gowns were silk, this was even more so. Wearing 'wash dresses' of cotton calico allowed mothers and maids to get their chores done, while wearing something cool, comfortable, and easy to launder. The sketch here is from 1928 and shows a simple to sew house dress pattern at a time when home sewing was on the upswing in a growing suburban culture.
Following World War II, a flood of changes affected fashion. The availability of fabrics, both natural and synthetic soared. Add to this the availability of the zipper. This innovation had become popular in apparel during the 1930's, but the war years put a stop to that. After the war, the zipper became a 'must have' element in all apparel. During the late 1940's and through the 1950's, zipper use was at an all time high, as women happily abandoned their buttons for the convenience of a zipper. This house dress pictured above of cotton calico sports a sweetheart neckline and pockets edged in looped trim. A long center front zipper is set between full length rows of tiny pintucks (label: Nip'N'Tuck).
House dresses changed from being softly fit to becoming more fashion aware during the 1950's and 60's. The sporty rust red version shown here is by "Swirl". This wrapped house dress has huge patch pockets embellished with large appliques of fruit, veggies and kitchen kitch. The back wraps around and snaps at the waistband for a great flexible fit.
This cute polka dot dress is by another popular label "Models Coat". Originally a cover up for fit and runway models, it has similar 'easy to wear' features as other house dresses.
As young women moved from dresses into pants for day wear during the late 1960's and 1970's, the house dress lost its position in the housewive's wardrobe. Jeans, blouses and 'T' shirts took its place to become the prefered apparel for chores and leisure activities at home.
More on House Dresses:
Fuzzy Lizzie Vintage Clothing: overview of 'Swirl' house dresses
Eda Danese: The House Dress