Dressing gown
Posted: 02 April 2014 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve often wondered, why and when did dressing gowns get that name? Googling reveals practically nothing, only vague hints (and the Diderot effect, which I’d never before heard of). I suspect the name “dressing gown” has something to do with the domestic habits of well-heeled Britons of a past age, but I’d love to know more. I wonder, by the way, what French name Diderot called his?

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Posted: 02 April 2014 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Etymology Online gives a date of 1777 for dressing gown and in the entry for “gown” mentions that gown was the common term in the 18th century for anything like what we now call a dress. If gown is the common generic term, then it’s easy to see why you need qualifiers like dressing gown, bridal gown, evening gown, etc.

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Posted: 03 April 2014 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Diderot called it his robe de chambre, and was fond enough of it to base a whole essay on it.

The dressing gown had been going strong since at least the late 15th century under the term nightgown or, from the 17th century, morning gown. In the 18th century a nightgown/morning gown worn over waistcoat and breeches, topped off with a soft nightcap, was perfectly acceptable informal morning wear even out of doors. Men frequented coffee shops in their nightgowns, gentlemen in Bath could stroll down to the Pump Room in the morning to take the waters in them, and it was something of an artistic convention that scholars, artists and professional men had their portraits painted wearing them - e.g. Diderot himself and Rousseau. I suggest that the term dressing gown supplanted the earlier terms when this stopped being customary, and the garment became relegated to a much smaller role in a strictly domestic context.

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Posted: 03 April 2014 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Thanks, Syntinen Laulu (I had a feeling I could count on you), and you too, happydog.  Picture is much clearer now.

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