I have started to notice a trend in my Etsy “favorites” my eBay watch lists and even my closet, I love 1950s (and 40s) House Dresses. My current collection is small (3 to be exact) but I would love to add more as they are fun and versatile and some of them are downright stylish. For example regarding being versatile, today I’m currently wearing my newest find from Cabaret Vintage with a cardigan, belt, ballet flats and simple jewellery. When I leave work today I’m going to put my hair up, scrap the cardigan, add a brooch to the dress and kitten heels and off I go for my evening out. SEE..Versatile!

Here is the dress. Cute pocket at the top and one at the hip and I just love the sleeve with the pleat in it..too cute! The original tag says it’s a “Berkshire dress” but I have not been able to find any info on this line. If you know anything please let me know, as I’m very curious on its original origins.

1950's housedress

(hehehe like my pink flamingo phone case that made an appearance here? lol)

House Dresses are also great for Swing dancing as the fabric is usually very easy to clean and due to the room they have, they won’t rip or tear like some of my precious vintage dresses could do. The dress below was my first House Dress I purchased (the fabric is coins) and I’m wearing it a Jazz street fest where I was doing a bunch of dancing. No rips to be had 🙂

1950's housedress


Now lets learn a little bit more about the House Dress (because that is one of the fun things about vintage clothing, learning about its history).

History of the House Dress (taken from Wikipedia)

A house dress is a type of simple dress worn informally in the mornings at home for household chores or for quick errands. The term first originated in the late nineteenth century to describe at-home garments designed for maximum practicality and usually made from washable fabrics. It is directly descended from the Mother Hubbard dress.  Such dresses were a necessary part of the housewife’s wardrobe in the early twentieth century and could be widely purchased through mail-order catalogues.

Although an informal garment, the house dress, particularly during the 1950s, was intended to be stylish and feminine as well as serviceable. The concept of attractive house dresses was popularised in the late 1910s by Nell Donnelly Reed, who established her house dress company in 1919. The company, renamed Nelly Don after Reed’s retirement, quickly became one of the most successful American clothing manufacturers of the 20th century. Some designers became known for house dress designs, such as Claire McCardell, whose 1942 ‘popover’ wrap dress was equally wearable as a house dress, a dressing-gown, a beach cover-up or even a party dress. The house dress version of McCardell’s popover came with a matching oven glove.


Here is the “Popover” wrap dress with oven glove. How Stylish and beautiful is this dress?

Clair McCardell Popover dress

Image courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sally Kirkland, in All-American: A Sportwear Tradition, reported that McCardell’s “Popover” dress “sold in the thousands (its low price [$6.95] and was classified as a ‘utility garment’.  In utility achieved with ingenuity, McCardell found a synergy. The modern woman could both be chic and do the cooking (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History).


Now lets explore some wonderful Vintage House Dress Images that just might convince you to put one on and bake a pie tonight 🙂

The Pattern on this is awesome! I would be taking this one home with me if I could squeeze back into my “pre wedding” weight but that is not the case so it gets to go to another happy customer.

1950's house dress

Dress from Etsy from Seller “BackinVogue

The colour and the appliqued flowers are wonderful on this dress and I just love the asymmetrical design.

1950's house dress

Dress from Etsy from Seller “ForeverSexy

This design below is another 1950’s design and it is fantastic AND the best part… you can actually have this recreated by Etsy Seller “Time Machine Vintage“.

Note: She recently did my two piece 1940’s honeymoon outfit and did an outstanding job. So if you love this dress, go and get it made 🙂

1950's house dress

Ohhhhhh….how lovely! I wonder what the “8-Page Etiquette Supplement” said too?

1950's Housedress

Below is a 1940’s House Dress Pattern. As you can see they are much simpler compared to the 1950’s versions but I still think very very pretty.

1940's House Dress

Now THIS is a 1940’s House Dress I would give anything to own! The bows are absolutely delightful!

1940's House Dress

Pattern for sale on Etsy from Seller “Paneenjerez

For more really great House Dress Patterns then jump on over to the blogger “Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing“. She has a wonderful post on House Dresses as well.

Lastly, to close one of my favorite blogs “Miss Turnstiles” did a post on her 1940’s House Dress and it’s a work of art that you really must see. Check it out here.

Happy House Dress shopping!

Liz 🙂

2 comments on “1940s/50s House Dresses- Must haves for your vintage collection”

  1. I completely agree, Liz! House dresses are definitely one of my obsessions — I own quite a number of them at this point, and love how stylish they are for modern wear, yet how durable and easy to clean they are. I know Risa Corbett is similarly enamoured with them.

    More swing dancers should look into purchasing them, as they are generally less expensive pieces of vintage and you don’t have to worry about dancing in them and can easily hand mend any torn seams which might occur due to age of thread.

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