House Dresses

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As I stay closer to home this month, start transitioning back to school and the weather heats up, the only thing I feel like wearing is a “house dress”. The term “house dress” originated in the late 18th Century and was a type of simple dress to be worn at home to do chores and other assorted domestic tasks. In the 1950’s the house dress became more feminine and stylish and could be worn out of the house if one added pearls and gloves. Though the house dress was originally designed as a uniform to do household tasks and rural chores, after the 60’s and the women’s movement,  it came out of the house and into the outside world of work, vacation and travel. Since 1974, the easy comfort of Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress, a descendent of the house dress, has become one of the hardest working garments in the modern woman’s wardrobe. Modern designers continue to play with notions of house dress as does Phoebe Philo in for Celine (thank you Jolain)

 Photo Courtesy of Hypebeast

Photo Courtesy of Hypebeast

In her book, The House Dress: A Story of Eroticism and Fashion, the author, Elda Denese, suggests that these multiple aspects, combined with the memory of the dressing gown, place the house dress in a threshold space (and you know how I love this place), between rural and urban, domesticity and sociality, between vacation and work and daytime and nighttime. This of course makes it the perfect garment to wear as our society is massively in the midst of which my idol Jane Addams calls “an in-between time” or the modern term, “liminal space”.  In anthropology this refers to the disorientation that occurs in the middle of a rite where one loses what one has been before but not yet begun the transition to what one will be. 

As I sit at home now about to conduct  2 on-line courses and attend to my fashion project I realize I could make a living and choose to never leave my home. The nature of work, domesticity, travel and fashion are being changed at rapid speed through technology. Bulky institutions are now fast are crumbling, new ones emerging and some are still unthought knowns.

So as I float between virtual and real, inside and outside, work and rest I need a garment that suits. Like my mother did, I need a garment that can stay in or go out. The dress I am wearing in this post, is a more modern and functional version of the house dress. Inside it feels like a luxurious dressing gown yet I can step right outside my door. And yes the name of the brand started by the designer, Katie Goldman McDonald, is House Dress. The proportions are generous, the garments are size free, the textiles are soft and weightless so one feels like they are not wearing anything. House Dress garments are locally and sustainably produced.

The one healthy habit I have been able to cultivate despite being a hot mess is that I make sure I have a balanced diet of virtual and real. I am teaching a face to face brick and mortar version of the on-line class and have the Wing, my outside workspace to keep me connected as well as meetings and visits to studios to meet and interact with the actual creators. As part of my balanced diet of “real”, many months ago I met this designer for coffee to find out more and she generously gifted me  this dress. I have been waiting for the right time to wear it and to let it inspire me. This day, this time in my life and in this world is the perfect moment. Thank you Katie!

Does inspiration ever strike you after a long wait and when you least expect it?

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