Locktown inspires house dress comeback

tamrawilson Uncategorized

After this extended COVID staycation, many of us have adopted a simpler dress code. Yes, clothing was relaxed well before the pandemic–thank Casual Fridays for that–but the extended quarantine has prompted a state of perpetual dress-down.  

With no meetings, church services, luncheons or dinner parties to attend, there’s no reason to dress up. And if 30 days form a habit, we’ve had 90 days in sweat pants and t-shirts.

This is the longest I’ve gone without a wristwatch since I was in fifth grade. And who needs lipstick when you’re wearing a mask? I haven’t.  Zoom gatherings require little more than combed hair, a decent top and a smile, lipstick optional.

Recently a friend I’ll call Bev said she was going to order herself a new “boardwalk dress.” She described it as a simple cotton shift to wear around the house. The name suggested something to wear at the beach, so I was naturally curious.

That evening we chatted on the phone for the better part of an hour as we compared notes at our computer screens. We perused clothing websites, looking at flowy shifts made of breathable fabric–what our mothers called a house dress.

Today’s versions are trendier than mumus or a frumpy, snap-up-the-front housecoats. Boardwalk dresses are perfect for running errands. Think of a t-shirt that wants to be a dress, or a dress that wants to be a long, loose t-shirt.

By now, my friend had convinced me that I needed a boardwalk dress, especially after I admitted that I’d already pushed my luck during this pandemic, wearing pajama bottoms and a jacket to water plants out front. There was little chance of someone unexpectedly driving up, but still.

I told Bev about “Swirl” dresses, a popular item at a store my mother frequented 60 years ago. Swirls were cotton wrap dresses that tied in front—holdovers from Hooverettes, worn in the 1930s, named for the President or the vacuum cleaner, I’m not sure which. Women on “I Love Lucy” were wearing these dresses into the 1950s.

Bev wasn’t familiar with Hooverettes or Swirls, but she understood what I was talking about. Dowdy or not, true boardwalk dresses would pack well if by some miracle I might be able to take an overnight trip.

I knew we were onto something when, not two days after our boardwalk dress conversation, I spotted an article in Southern Living. “The House Dress is Officially Back and We Are Here for It,” the headline read.  An accompanying article was titled, “20 Comfy House Dresses Stylish Enough to be Spotted In (Even If You Won’t Be).”

While we were locked down at home, the world reverted back to the 1930s—Hooverettes, unemployment, battered economy and all.  

It’s amazing how history repeats itself.