The House Dress

1° ed.
Firmly impressed on the collective memory, the housedress is a garment with a many-sided identity: a uniform for house work, daily wear for women in rural families, a light dress for the summer vacations and, in more recent times, an item in the collections of many fashion designers. These multiple aspects, combined with the persistence of the memory of the dressing gown in a garment used to do the household chores, place the housedress in a space on the threshold between the rural and urban dimension, between domesticity and sociality, between vacation and work, between nighttime and daytime. The cinema has used these different angles to describe situations that range from the daily life of the family to a latent or explicit eroticism. Since the Second World War a series of movies has exploited the image of the housedress, creating some memorable female figures: from Silvana, the rice-weeder in Riso amaro, to Angela, erotic stereotype of the housemaid in Malizia, and the more recent character of Irene, who in the film Volver is provided with an entire wardrobe of housedresses. But what were the conditions that led to the success of this item of indoor wear? Initially linked to the history of propaganda for a modern organization of work and domestic spaces, its form was consolidated between the wars within a contemporary and cosmopolitan dimension of clothing; later its widespread distribution was favored by the growth of the mass-produced clothing industry, while, from the 1970s onward, its reworking by a number of designers, in particular Diane von Furstenberg, encouraged the emergence of a new identity for the housedress in the world of fashion.


teaches in the course of Fashion Design at the IUAV University in Venice. Her interests extend from contemporary visual culture to fashion and textile manufacturing. She has worked with the Center for the Study of Textiles and Costume of the Venetian Civic Museums and has published a series of essays on contemporary fabrics and fashion.