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Women who knew how to lounge - Whatever happened to the hostess gown?

Posted on 08 October 2014

Claire Trevor
Claire Trevor

 

Someone I know wanted to bring back the fanny pack a couple of years ago.  Then Chanel had rhinestone studded fanny packs in their show last year and I thought.. wow - it worked!  Now, I think I might want to put the wheels in motion to bring back Hostess attire.  In the above photo, the actress Claire Trevor is lounging on the sofa - perhaps waiting for guests to arrive for dinner.  Or maybe she is staying in for the evening - just hangin. I don't know about you, but when I am lounging at home, (which I don't know that I even do), I usually have on jeans and a tee shirt or leggings. Somehow, even if I tried, I have a feeling I would never look as elegant lounging as Ms. Trevor does here!

 

Actress Virginia Bruce 
Actress Virginia Bruce

 

Virginia Bruce is lounging in her satin hostess pajamas, pearls and marabou, of course.  I would love to invite friends over for dinner and watch their reaction if I opened the door wearing this amazing ensemble!

 

Loretta Young waiting for guests to arrive in her floral hostess gown and ankle boots in 1937
Loretta Young waiting for guests to arrive in her floral hostess gown and ankle boots in 1937

 

Jean Harlow in Gilbert Adrian dressing gown
Jean Harlow in Gilbert Adrian dressing gown

 

Of course, Jean Harlow's hostess gown was designed by the phenomenal Gilbert Adrian - she actually looks relaxed with her shoes on and full hair and make up while lounging on her bed. That's why she was Jean Harlow.

 

Elizabeth Montgomery
Elizabeth Montgomery

 

It wasn't just the Hollywood glamour girls of the 1930's and 1940s who could lounge so effortlessly, here is Elizabeth Montgomery in a Lucie Ann marabou trimmed hostess ensemble in the 1960's.  So what happened to loungewear and hostess gowns? Does anyone own a pair of hostess pajamas anymore?

 

Bergdorf Goodman ad for hostess gowns 1935
Bergdorf Goodman ad for hostess gowns 1935

 

If you browse through old fashion magazines, you will find ads for all kinds of hostess attire. From elegant gowns worthy of a walk down the red carpet, to house frocks made of cottons, the fashion world saw a need to supply women with "house clothes" that were neither "sleepwear" or "streetwear."

 

Fashion layout in Harper's Bazaar with Yrande hostess gown on left and Lanvin Hostess Pajamas on right
Fashion layout in Harper's Bazaar with Yrande hostess gown on left and Lanvin Hostess Pajamas on right

 

Neiman Marcus Hostess dinner dress ad
Neiman Marcus Hostess dinner dress ad

 

Fashion spread on Hostess gowns from the 1940s in Vogue magazine.
Fashion spread on Hostess gowns from the 1940s in Vogue magazine.

 

Fabric ad from the 1950's featuring "at home" clothes.

 

But that was really only for wealthier women, celebrities or society queens you say?  Don't worry, for the women who couldn't afford the magazine versions of loungewear, the sewing pattern companies supplied them with hundreds of options - it seems that women of all socio-economic backgrounds felt a need to look elegant while lounging at home.

 

Vintage patterns from the 1930's and 1940's for loungewear, hostess gowns and hostess pajamas
Vintage patterns from the 1930's and 1940's for loungewear, hostess gowns and hostess pajamas

 

Vintage patterns from the 1950's and 1960's for loungewear and hostess gowns
Vintage patterns from the 1950's and 1960's for loungewear and hostess gowns

 

It seems that now, if you want to see loungewear or hostess ensembles, you have to visit a museum!

 

Claire McCardell Hostess outfit from 1938 - Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute
Claire McCardell Hostess outfit from 1938 - Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

 

Elizabeth Hawes silk hostess pajama outfit - 1939 Metropolitan Museum of Art costume Institute
Elizabeth Hawes silk hostess pajama outfit - 1939 Metropolitan Museum of Art costume Institute

 

Charles James silk Hostess gown from 1941 - Metropolitan Museum of Art costume institute
Charles James silk Hostess gown from 1941 - Metropolitan Museum of Art costume institute

 

1955 Bonnie Cashin Hostess outfit loungewear
1955 Bonnie Cashin Hostess outfit loungewear

 

Givenchy 1970 Hostess Pajamas - MET Costume Institute
Givenchy 1970 Hostess Pajamas - MET Costume Institute

We live differently today - we, as women, are physically more active, we work, we like easy-care fabrics and value comfort.  But there is a part of me that misses the idea of lounging in style - it would take a lot of effort and energy to resist putting the sweatpants or jeans back on, but I wonder if it would be worth it? 

 

I love vintage lingerie - if you visit the Loungewear section of Dressing Vintage, you will find vintage pajamas, hostess gowns and loungewear.  I dream of wearing it regularly one day - or maybe I simply dream of living a life where I would take the time to "dress for dinner' instead of rushing from one thing to the next on the hamster wheel we call life. It isn't just the fashion that makes lounging so appealing, it's the idea of experiencing life at a pace that gives us more time for each other. I guess we might as well look good doing it - it wouldn't hurt to put on something pretty at home every now and then.. so what do you say- should we bring back the hostess gown?

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