I've heard about them, but still, they were a bit of a mystery. A housecoat or a "duster," something that my Grandmother would have worn. What exactly were they for?
I never really knew until I started to obsessively re-watch all of the old Mad Men episodes on Netflix while doing my ironing. And now I get it. Not only that, but I whole-heartedly believe that if there is one thing that SHOULDN'T have been dropped from our collective consciousness over the past decades, it's the housecoat. Surely the housecoat.
See these? These are housecoats. Pretty, presentable, comfortable housecoats. You wear them around your house when you're at home relaxing or cleaning or cooking or whatever it is you do. They're a nicer alternative to pajamas or loungewear. You know, something you can answer the door in with pride. You can wear your housecoat instead of your regular outfits to keep them clean when you work around your home. Or, if you're in a hurry and leaving soon, you can throw a housecoat over your outfit to make sure it stays nice.
What is there not to love about housecoats!? Where did they all go?
Well, I don't know why they lost such popularity, but I do know that a few are still around . You can find some versions at The Vermont Country Store, and eBay has some new and vintage housecoats too. Amazon and Etsy carry some, and so do several catalogue and online clothing brands.
I really wanted one of my own. I wanted one and I knew that I could use one! How many times have I been at home just cleaning or making dinner or spending the day on my computer when the doorbell rang? I don't want to answer that door wearing old yoga pants! I want to answer it looking like a pink meringue dream!
One day recently we took Josie to be groomed and they asked us to be back in about an hour. It didn't make sense to run home and come back in that time, so instead we decided to take a walk and window shop for a while. One of the stores that we came upon was a favorite of mine from high school - Mother Fletcher's Vintage in Ferndale. It's racks and racks and cases and shelves and trunks of curated vintage clothing, shoes and accessories. I was there, and I was on a housecoat mission.
Almost immediately I spotted an area that resembled a cloud-like swirl of pastels in floaty fabrics. It was the room at the back of the store which housed a large rack of vintage nightgowns and robes. All the pale pinks and peaches and buttery yellows and robin's egg blue a girl could ever wish for.
I knew that housecoats were not pajamas and that they weren't robes really, but I figured this would be as good an area as any to start searching for one.
It did not take long for the most beautiful, most voluminous, most weightless garment in the whole room to jump out and catch my eye. It was a robe marked "1940's." Not a bathrobe, but a pretty robe, one that a princess would wear over her pajamas. Two layers of sheer, baby pink fabric, the bottom layer chiffon and the top layer the most gorgeous, real flocked Dotted Swiss. There was a Peter Pan collar and turned up armbands trimmed with white lace, and the perfect satin bow at the neckline. I just HAD to try it on, maybe this was a 1940's version of a housecoat for all I knew. Mad Men starts in 1960, so what do I know about housecoats from the 40's and 50's?
Then I stopped. I saw the price tag. It was $50!!! Far too much for me to spend on a housecoat. I began to carefully put it back. But something came over me and I couldn't bear the thought of leaving without at least trying what it felt like to wear something so pretty. (They really don't make clothes like this these days). So I carefully slid it over one arm, my shoulders and then the next arm. I buttoned the robe up and to my surprise, it fit! Not only that, but it was the perfect length! Not something that happens often when you're five feet tall.
I did a twirl and all the pink fabric floated out and around me. I felt so happy! "Jon!" I called, just wanting to show him before I put the robe back. He came in and laughed and I went to point out to him the real Dotted Swiss fabric with the velvety flocked dots when my index finger went RIGHT THROUGH THE TOP LAYER OF THE SLEEVE!!!!
Oh no! I ripped a rather large hole right there in the sleeve. I couldn't believe it. How did that happen!???
Now, I could have quietly put it back on the rack and swished out, avoiding the need to buy a $50 robe with a hole in it, but that's not me at all. I can not tell a lie. I have TWO Jiminy Crickets on my shoulders....I always let me conscience be my guide. I had to tell the store clerk what I did and own up and if that meant you break it, you buy it, then so be it I guess....
Patient Jon did a palm plant on his forehead when my finger, so excited to point out Dotted Swiss went right through the Dotted Swiss, and then again when I mumbled that it was $50. He was not exactly amused. We made our way to the register anyway, and thank goodness that the woman working that day was so incredibly nice when I explained to her what had happened. "Oh!" she said.... "Don't worry, it's old fabric, it happens ALL the time. Fabric weakens. Don't worry about it." I apologized profusely and offered to buy the robe. She said I really didn't have to if I didn't want to, but since there was now a big hole in the front of one sleeve, I felt like buying it was the right thing for me to do.
So she very graciously gave it to me half-off, and sent me on my way as the proud owner of my first, most gorgeous, very unflattering, pink poof of a "housecoat!"
And the best part was, that after picking Josie up from the groomers, and pulling up at home, a package lay on our front doorstep.
"Ah!" I yelled. "I just remembered. It's the HOUSECOAT that I ordered on eBay last week!" And that is how I became the VERY proud owner of TWO housecoats in one day.
And how Jon decided to drop me off and keep going.*
*Just kidding. He still loves me.
Until next time, seriously, try out a housecoat!