I blame June Cleaver.


I blame June Cleaver. Or maybe 1950s advertising in general, with their . Or perhaps sunspots. All I know is, somebody has to pay for putting out the idea that doing housework in a housedress is ludicrous. In fact, I think that if you have to do something messy, unrewarding, and unpleasant, you might as well do it in a loose, airy, comfortable cotton housedress, which has plenty of extra fabric to wipe your hands on, dries faster than a pair of old jeans, and still looks neat and tidy if you have to answer the door mid-task or run to the hardware store for another essential doohickey. And you won't feel like changing when the job is over and it's time to put your feet up and drink lemonade.

There are still a couple of places where you can buy old-fashioned housedresses, like the ads in the back of Parade magazine and the , but they tend to be, at best, half-polyester, skimpy, and with inadequate pockets, nothing like this adorable example. Click on the image (from ) to see more pictures, so you can ooh and aah over the positioning of the stripes and the rickrack trim. It's B40/W30 and is $75 … I'm not recommending you spend $75 on a dress to do dishes in, but if you see one in a thrift store for a couple of bucks (and you ever have occasion to do a bit of light housework) you might consider picking one up and trying it out.

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0 thoughts on “I blame June Cleaver.

  1. Oh yes!!!!! I totally agree. Erin, you rock. Thanks for the tips where to find such darling things. And occasionally, consider where to get a perfect hat and gloves to wear with these dresses.

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  2. I remember as a child longingly gazing at the racks of cotton housedresses at Broughton’s Department Store in Deckerville, MI, in the 1950’s. They were available in plaids, checks and florals in pleasing colors and mostly shirtwaist styles. I loved them. Unfortunately Broughton’s, and the dresses, are now gone.

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  3. Erin, I thought that I was alone in this sentiment… I spend the day in my studio, painting, and nothing is more comfortable than a cotton dress (and, as Ani DeFranco says, “I don’t wear anything I can’t wipe my hands on”, at least in the studio). I buy them in thrift stores, or, more often, take my cotton dresses that are so worn out that they are shameful to exit the house in, and put them in the “studio” section. Thanks for your work, love this blog!

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  4. That dress is yummy and so is your site! Thank you for all the adorable dresses- even that blue one i hope you make into a skirt.

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  5. I remember my mom in the 50’s wearing only house dresses for everyday work. To this day I can’t believe doing all that work in a dress. Of course, there was an apron covering her every day while she worked to help save the dress from a mess. It took years to talk her into wearing jeans/slacks but once she did we seldom saw her in a dress!

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  6. That is one pretty housedress! I have been thinking of sewing up some housedresses from vintage patterns. I have a couple in wrap styles which would be good to wear while sewing–easy to take on and off to check fit.

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  7. That dress makes it feel 10 degrees cooler outside all by itself! I just flat out prefer dresses and skirts to pants most of the time, particularly in the spring and summer. But I still get the “Mom, are you going somewhere?” or “You’re all dressed up! Where are you going?” questions every time I wear one just for “everyday.” I’ve been using the excuse that “all my pants are dirty,” but I’m just going to have to buck up and own my addiction…

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  8. I recently bought a vintage pattern on eBay for a 1940’s apron with a very full skirt and nipped in waist, ric rac trim et al. I began making the thing in calico before splashing out on some fab vintage fabric and wondered at the wisdom of swirling around the house, hoover in hand, in soooo many yards of fabric – health and safety and all that. I wonder if there are any statistics regarding fatal accidents involving gingham and ric rac between 1940 and 1956 say..I do love this site 🙂

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  9. I love the Vermont Country Store — did you see their line of “patio dresses”? Most are 100% cotton, with 2 big patch pockets. What could be more of a delight than cleaning in a lavender gingham seersucker dress? Hope over there & search “patio dress”.

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  10. The dress looks as if Escher influenced its design. I continue to like dresses over slacks because I am tall with long legs. Why don’t manufacturers make women’s slack/pants with inseam and waist sizes?WW

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  11. i make all my muslins out of fabric that is not so expensive that i would cry if the dress doesn’t turn out well, but is pretty enough to wear if the dress does turn out well. i’ve always called these my vacuuming outfits, because that is what i do in them–i vacuum, and dust, and putter around, and basically feel pretty and definitely presentable if i have an unexpected guest or i need to run out on an errand. and THAT is what a good housedress does for you–makes you feel GOOD about cleaning, about welcoming a friend into my home, about running out to drop off a casserole or whatever (usually, the errand is to buy more fabric for more dresses).

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  12. Hi Erin,You have a fun blog. Here is the other side. You have been out shopping in your cotton dress. You get home and find unexpected company coming. Oh dear, house needs fixing, dinner needs thought it is 100 drgrees outside. Right, I am in my cool cotton dress and so I just keep working. It really works. There is much more air circulation in a loose fitting cotton dress. Eddie Bauer makes some nice ones too. you are interested is my site. Ann

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  13. abi, you forgot ball-fringe! I wonder how many people have met their deaths when the ball-fringe on the bottom of their dress/skirt/clam diggers got sucked into the vacuum vortex…

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  14. Holy Crap! I just happened upon this blog, and yet it has a very similar title to my blog, the daily shirt blog!!

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  15. Oh! Great idea! Bonus: I heard wearing high heels when you vacuum gives your calves a nice workout. Now, to find a nice housedress in the perfect shade of brown…

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  16. hi! i came acroos your blog and i saw this really beautiful white zara dress with a high collar i think, but when i came back today i didn’t see it anymore. could you post it again please?? here’s my email [email protected]

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  17. I do the same thing as rowena, above. I make my muslins out of novelty cottons bought on clearance, so if it’s wearable, but not *quite* right: Instant house dress! Yep, I do nearly all my housework (short of scrubbing floors) in skirts. I love this dress, btw. I like circle skirts made with striped material. Such a fun arched line!–Lydia

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  18. hi! great blog; I’ll visit again. this post reminded me that in my great-grandma’s autobiography, she told how her stepmother started a business making housedresses, at the time when women made their own. she sold her business to a five & dime store which later became… hmmm, was it K-mart? I have to look it up. anyway, I think she was the first to market housedresses…? great to remember the story once again…

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  19. What a coincidence! I was thinking only the other day about housedresses, or rather, housecoats. Was just about to embark on messy cleaning job, and wondering whatever happened to simple protective clothing like that.

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  20. I was just remembering how nice and cool housedresses were during warmer weather. I think I need to make a few of them now that summer is here and I’m tempted to move into a meat locker!

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  21. Lodge’s department store in downtown Albany, NY carries a large selection of housedresses. Not my thing, though, but I do remember my grandmother always wore them. The dress you picture is way too nice to clean the house in. Love the blog, btw.

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  22. I totally agree that we should re-embrace the housedress. I did all my housework in last years tiered skirt and found it dead useful for hand and forehead wiping.

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  23. i must add my two cents and say i am 32 and wear day dresses while doing household chores. where and when i got the brilliant idea to do so?…not exactly sure, but its comfortable, airy, cute and i love it!

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  24. I’m sorry, but that Vermont Country Store “patio dress” is hideous. If I wanted to feel fat I would put on a pair of too small jeans.

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  25. That raspberry swirl dress sure was beautiful! Would love to see dresses like that again. I was born in ’53, and remember all the housewives wearing skirts and dresses. Dungarees (what jeans were called then) were for yard work and such, and they were worn rolled up a little. My mother bought me a little pair of green ones, and I cried and cried when she put them on me, and especially when she presented me to my father in them. I felt like a boy and was so humiliated. She took them off. I never wore pants again until I was about 11! My grandmother wore these housedresses (not with pearls or high heels) to do her housework. She wore a girdle and stockings every day, too, with some old shoes with holes cut in them for her bunions. She would take off the girdle and roll down the stockings when nobody was there, and if anyone came over, she would let them in and then quickly put her girdle back on in the bedroom and roll the stockings back up! They really did not do the June Cleaver thing — that was exaggerated for TV. Most housewives did their housework in “housecoats”, which were a step above a bathrobe. You could answer the door in it, or entertain a fellow housewife for coffee. I remember them taking their kids to school in the car after breakfast, dressed in a housecoat, fuzzy slippers, and hair-curlers, stopping off at the local grocery store dressed like that (the young guys would laugh at them) and then driving home again to finish the housework before cleaning up and putting on the June Cleaver clothes and going to their club or friends’ homes, or whatever. We all took baths once a week back then, whether we needed them or not!

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