Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Humble Housedress

Many of the residents in the nursing home where I visited wore hospital-style gowns. It was the 70s afterall and many of the improvements that would come through nursing home reform had not yet occurred.

That being said, there was one wing of the nursing home where most residents dressed in casual clothing, if they were feeling well enough. This is the wing where Mrs. Rose lived.

Mrs. Rose almost always wore a house dress or a house coat.  Those wonderful loose-fitting and washable dresses that women wore as domestic "uniforms" in the mid 20th century.



Though I don't know the girl or the old woman in the picture below, the image reminds me of myself and my own grandmother, Nanny...


And the dress she is wearing reminds me of the house dresses that both Mrs. Rose and my grandmother wore.

They also wore housecoats which were very similar.   I remember Nanny might throw her house coat on over her slip if someone were to come to the door...


House dresses were simply-made and easy to get in and out of...and they allowed my grandmother freedom from the girdles, brasierres, slips and garters that kept her under wraps while in public.  

Someone must still be wearing them since K-mart has a huge selection online, referring to them as "dusters".  For me, the modern version of the "house dress" might be yoga pants and a t-shirt.

I found an old house dress pattern online and someone had actually scanned the back of the pattern envelope so I was able to use that as a template...



I struggled to find a fabric in the period style with a print that was small enough in scale to translate well to a miniature reproduction. After much trial and error, I found a small fat-quarter bundle of 50s prints that I'd bought from the quilt store years ago...Honestly, I am grateful every day for my stash.

I picked out the color and print I thought would work the best and attempted to age the fabric through aggressive washing and abrading the fabric across my nutmeg grater.  I also hung it out in the bright sunlight for a couple of days, hoping that might fade it further.  I'm not sure it worked but it seemed an old-fashioned thing to do and I think Mrs. Rose would have approved...



I changed the magnification of the "pattern" on my printer until it was the right size and used it to cut and sew my pattern pieces...



I ended up sewing one full side of the dress and modified the second side knowing that it would rest against the ground fabric.



Mrs. Rose was grateful to be getting dressed...



Delighted with the color of the dress since it matches her eyes...



And here is how she looks propped on the edge of her seat, eager to receive visitors...



And very grateful to be dressed in her comfortable, cozy house dress from home.

38 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Wow...you have done such a fabulous job with the housecoat...now you need to give her slippers.

Lisa said...

Just amazing to watch Mrs. Rose coming to life before our very eyes! You are a magician!

Catherine said...

I remember my grandmothers having those!!! My mom may have even had one when I was little. You never cease to amaze me with your talent!

Grace said...

OMG how wonderful! My grandmother also had house dresses. She would get so annoyed when she saw women with them on out of the house. lol Thank you for such wonderful memories Grace xoox

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I didn't even know there was such a thing as a nutmeg grater!! Only Susan!

I remember well my mother lived in house coats and house dresses. It wasn't til the 70's that she discovered polyester pantsuits. I couldn't believe she would wear a pair of pants.

You fabric selection is perfect and the details in tiny rick-rack and buttons are as well.

I just can't tell you how touching this art piece is.
xx, Carol

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I love it that you took that pattern and made it to Mrs. Roses' size.

It is wonderful.

She definitely looks more comfortable being in her house dress.

FlowerLady

Cari said...

Oh Susan, Mrs. Rose looks so happy !! I love the fabric you chose for her house coat !! <3

gracie said...

Having worked 23 years in a nursing home, I can say this is the very way I remember so many ladies wore. Once again, you have amazed us!

Judy McCarthy said...

We're loving Mrs.Rose's evolution! Gosh those house dresses! My mum's 87, and in a nursing home.She dresses much more smartly now than when she was at home .Then she wore those house dresses, and sneakers( as she has painful arthritic feet.
Love that old pattern!

Suzanne Bruno said...

HI Susan....you had me at "house dress". My mother wore house coats or dusters all the time. I actually had a few myself back in the day!
Mrs Rose is shaping up nicely.
Suzanne

susiew said...

I am just delighted to watch the way your mind works! The time and thought you put into your work makes it beyond "special". This will indeed be a true memory of your Mrs. Rose .... a real treasured keepsake of a wonderful time in your life. Your thoughtfulness inspires me to aim higher and think differently.
SusieW
PS - her housecoat is just grand!

shawkl said...

Another masterpiece is underway for sure! The housecoat is an icon of the past...my grandmother wore them too...as many others have commented. I'm loving Ms. Rose's hair style...very natural looking!
Kathy

Sheila Iskin said...

Gee, Susan! She's looking terrific! I love the rick rack. What a great touch, and yes, the blue is just perfect. What great synchronicity.

Shirlee Fassell said...

Wow is the only word I can utter!!! She looks like my mothers and aunts!! Super job. Looking for ward to the rest.

Shirlee Fassell said...

Wow is the only word I can utter!!! She looks like my mothers and aunts!! Super job. Looking for ward to the rest.

wendy said...

Oh how I wish you lived close by, I would want to take classes from you! Your work is incredible, the house dress is perfect, and I love the buttons too! Once again your work amazes me!!!

margaret said...

Mrs Rose looks so comfortable in her house coat a lovely shade if blue and how clever to have adjusted the pattern so brilliantly.

char said...

Thank you. Thanks for bringing up memories from yesteryear.

Rachel said...

I remember my grandmama wearing a housecoat, and that looks just like it!

Chocolates4Breakfast (TerriBoog) said...

What a fun post! I love the pics of the house dresses and the one you created is adorable!

Mosaic Magpie said...

I have several of those housecoats and wear them every day as a robe....so Mrs. Rose could come over for a visit and feel right at home.
Great work!
Deb

Debbie S. said...

Wonderful house dress, she is so coming to life.

Gerry Krueger said...

The fabric and color are absolutely perfect! Ger

Jillayne said...

Amazing! I love how you do things - so simply, yet still so brilliant, and especially that you are able to use your computer along with your stitchery to get where you want to be. Wonderfully done.... and it does match her eyes doesn't it?!

Linda said...

I had a pattern very similar to that in the VERY early 70s. I made myself a few of them, but sleeveless, while I was pregnant w/my older daughter. They were soooo comfortable, and cool. This was in Las Vegas in the summer, and I think I made them in seersucker. Mrs. Rose is coming along beautifully. I really like how she's looking up at you in the mirror with so much love in her face.

xo Linda

Marlis said...

I have been a silent follower and quiet admirer of your work and your blog. I am amazed at the infinite detail in your creations! I love the blue of the fabric you chose for Mrs. Rose. many times when I need a tiny scale print, I scan my original fabric and then scale the print, finishing by printing on Printed Treasures printable fabric. I've previously used this many times and can attest to its quality. Just wanted to share. I am enjoying every minute of your creativity. Marlis

christiane86LRP said...

c'est trop beau!! un énorme bravo pour vos réalisations! je suis fan!!

Momma Bear said...

I love the color like robins eggs!
Mrs. Rose looks warmer now in her house dress, almost the same as my g'ma's..

Allison Aller said...

The way your devotion to her--and by extension, all old people--has carried on over the decades is so moving. Translated into fiber art now, it warms our hearts, Susan.

linnyt said...

You are simply amazing. What a perfect idea for a pattern for her house dress!
I just love your blog. I never know what'll be the next thing for you.

Margaret said...

Next up: slippers to match? You know...the furry kind? Or did she wear proper shoes even with her housecoat?

Sarah Beth said...

I am just amazed at how talented you are. Was it hard to sew such a small pattern. Did you do it by hand? I would actually like to try to make some life size ones. Were they hard to make. I want to learn to sew clothes but have trouble reading the patterns. Any suggestions. Your Mrs. Rose is just amazing and you are extremely talented :-)

Juno said...

What happy memories you have dredged up! and what beautiful work you have shared to inspire!! Thank you

Createology said...

I very much remember the "humble housedress" and my grandmother wearing them. Your have sewn Mrs. Rose a beautiful blue one that truly does match her beautiful eyes. How clever of you to use the pattern back in miniature to cut and sew her housedress. I wondered why you were "missing" a bosom button until I saw her arms are there. Once again your attention to detail is what makes your art so very incredible and special. I am in awe dear...

Vj said...

If only we'd caught her hours earlier, before the curlers came out. Such memories, thanks, and well done!

coral-seas said...

Amazing! I love the picture of the tiny pattern pieces pinned to the fabric. I was wondering what size everything is, then I spotted the pins and the cotton reel, that put things into perspective! Those buttons must be iddy biddy! I didn't know they made buttons that tiny.

You have chosen the perfect colour dress to match her eyes, no wonder she is looking so happy.

underatopazsky said...

My goodness, this block is beyond words. Wonderful, simply full of wonder.

Judy S. said...

Wow, Susan! Not only does Mrs. R have her own hair dresser, she also has her own fashion designer. You're doing a great job on this. Too bad you didn't show the price of the pattern...back in those days you could really save by sewing your own clothing!

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