Wednesday, 2 October 2019

What's in a Word?

I posted a picture of my latest project over on the Simplicity and McCall's page and when I woke up this morning there was a whole debate as to what it should have been called. Apparently, many didn't agree with my description that it was a robe. It wasn't just mine, I quoted the description on the pattern envelope. 

Some thought it should have been called a duster. Others considered it housecoat. But the consensus amongst the commenters was that it wasn't a robe. I relish in these comments. I love words and how fluid and regional their meanings are situated. And then I thought about how I would would define this project if there was not pattern description to define it. I would have from my own historical perspective called it a housecoat. Which got me thinking why and what's in a word? Apparently, there is some history behind these words.  

Is it a robe?  

According to the Simplicity pattern description, here in North America, fifty-three years ago it was considered a robe. But I can see were the debate comes into play when doing an online search for robes. Most current online retail options for robes show a loose-fitting garment that is held closed by a tie belt. Not one current option showed button closures. Of course, this could be a sign of the times when manufacturers cut corners when it comes to garment details.  

Robe, circa 1960s {source}

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, in the definition of a robe as a "dressing gown" dates back to 1854. And a robe defined as a long loose outer garment dates as far back to the 12th century.  

Is it a housecoat?  

Several commenters also piped in and claim this to be a housecoat. According to this term was first recorded during the years 1915-20 referring to a "woman's robe or dress-like garment in various lengths, for casual wear around the house." Other sources claimed that historically a housecoat was worn over another garment.  

Housecoat {Source}

Is it a bathrobe?  

It could be argued that this is a bathrobe. According to a bathrobe is defined as "a long, loose, coat-like garment, often tied with a belt of the same material, worn before and after a bath, over sleepwear, or as leisure wear at home."

Vintage Bathrobe {source}

Is it a duster?  

According to many of the commenters from the United Kingdom, the consensus is that is a duster based on what their mothers had referred to a garment like this one. Historically, a duster referred to a long, lightweight overcoat that was worn to protect clothing from dust of the open road. The duster as a garment moved indoors and became a "knee-length to long lightweight women's overcoat or smock." defines a dusters as a "light-weight housecoat."

Duster {source}

Although, I can see how others would define this according to their vision of how the garment will be worn, I'm going to agree with Simplicity's vintage description on this one. It's a robe. The wearer of the garment intends to wear it at home after their bath and prior to going to bed. I'm not saying that any of the other definitions couldn't work depending how and where the robe / housecoat / bathrobe / duster will be worn. I'm just saying that I'm going with robe on this one.  

Happy Sewing!  

1 comment:

  1. My mom would have called it a duster. She wore something similar while working around the house (yes, including dusting) and would change before Dad came home or before heading out the door shopping.

    Me, well I am not sure what I would call it, more a housecoat I think, but my husband would call it a robe.

    God bless.


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