Outfit of the day

#wiwt, and what is a hostess gown?

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1930s black felt hat, Playclothes • bright yellow Miriam Haskell glass bead necklace, ebay • 1940s crazy patterned rayon hostess dress, Long Beach flea market

Today I wore something that is known as a hostess gown. I suppose today it could be referred to as a “maxi dress,” but that pretty much only speaks to the fact that it’s long. For those of you not hosting dinner parties in the middle part of the last century, a hostess gown was something that ladies who were entertaining might wear to their own dinner party, some kind of brilliant cross between a bathrobe and an evening gown. So, comfortable enough to sprawl out on your sofa with your guests and a post-dinner manhattan or five, and not so comfortable that your guests think you’ve just emerged from the boudoir. Made of the softest silky rayon I’ve certainly ever had the pleasure to wear, my hostess gown features a bizarre pattern of cartoon King Arthur debris and a much longer than necessary front zipper. I think that the bright colors and pattern one finds on hostess gowns is important to their function, especially if the hostess was also a person who had anything to do with preparing food for her party. It’s hard to see a stain amongst all those cheery colors and patterns. I suppose the main difference between a 20th century housecoat and a hostess gown is fabric. Housecoats were made of less expensive fabrics like cotton, and hostess gowns were sort of like housecoats made of fine silk, rayon, or taffeta, clearly meant to be seen by guests. Many followed the current cocktail dress or day dress style of the time, but made longer and more relaxed.

It appears that Saybury is still in business making bedclothes today, but were recognized as “a leading maker of luxury housecoats” according to a 1950 ad for Ivory Flakes with “Radiant Action” (quotes theirs).

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Oh, and if you don’t know what #wiwt means, it’s “what I wore today.” I’m trying to stay hip to the internet lingo, you know.

in April 4, 2014

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