A gown (
medieval Latin"gunna") is a (usually) loose outer garmentfrom knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europefrom the early Middle Agesto the seventeenth century(and continuing today in certain professions); later, "gown" was applied to any woman's garment consisting of a bodiceand attached skirt.
A long, loosely-fitted gown called a Banyan was worn by men in the eighteenth century as an informal coat.
The gowns worn today by academics,
judges, and some clergy derive directly from the everyday garments worn by their medieval predecessors, formalized into a uniformin the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
fashion, "gown" was used in English for any one-piece garment, but more often through the eighteenth century for an overgarment worn with a petticoat(called in French a " robe"); compare the short gowns or bedgowns of the later eighteenth century.
Before the Victorian period, the word "dress" usually referred to a general overall mode of attire for either men or women (such as in the phrases "Evening Dress", "Morning Dress", "Travelling Dress", "Full Dress" etc.), rather than to any specific garment — and the most-used English word for a woman's skirted garment was "gown" (as in
Jane Austen's novels).
By the early twentieth century, both "gown" and "
frock" were essentially synonymous with "dress", although "gown" was more often used for a formal or heavy garment and "frock" for a light-weight or informal one.
Only in the last few decades has "gown" lost its general meaning of a woman's garment in the US in favor of "dress". Today the usage is chiefly British except in specialized, formal cases such as
ball gownor in historical senses.
* Boubou gown of
1550-1600 in fashion
1600-1650 in fashion
Types of gowns
Academic dress("cap and gown")
Arnold, Janet: "Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction C.1860-1940", Wace 1966, Macmillan 1972. Revised metric edition, Drama Books 1977. ISBN 0-89676-027-8
Ashelford, Jane: "The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500-1914", Abrams, 1996. ISBN 0-8109-6317-5
Black, J. Anderson and Madge Garland: "A History of Fashion", Morrow, 1975. ISBN 0-688-02893-4
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