A gown (medieval Latin "gunna") is a (usually) loose outer garment from knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the seventeenth century (and continuing today in certain professions); later, "gown" was applied to any woman's garment consisting of a bodice and 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 uniform in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Women's dress

In women's 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 gown or in historical senses.

See also

* Boubou gown of West Africa
* Skirt
* Dress
* Frock
* Robe
* Banyan (clothing)
* Clothing terminology
* 1550-1600 in fashion
* 1600-1650 in fashion

Types of gowns

* Academic dress ("cap and gown")
* Ball gown
* Bedgown
* Coronation gown
* Evening gown
* Hospital gown
* Nightgown
*Surgical gown
*Tea gown
*Wedding 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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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gown — Gown, n. [OE. goune, prob. from W. gwn gown, loose robe, akin to Ir. gunn, Gael. g[ u]n; cf. OF. gone, prob. of the same origin.] 1. A loose, flowing upper garment; especially: (a) The ordinary outer dress of a woman; as, a calico or silk gown.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gown — /gown/, n. 1. a woman s dress or robe, esp. one that is full length. 2. nightgown. 3. dressing gown. 4. See evening gown. 5. a loose, flowing outer garment in any of various forms, worn by a man or woman as distinctive of office, profession, or… …   Universalium

  • gown — [gaun] n [Date: 1300 1400; : Old French; Origin: goune, from Late Latin gunna] 1.) a long dress that a woman wears on formal occasions wedding/evening/ball gown ▪ a white silk wedding gown 2.) a long loose piece of clothing worn for special… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • gown — [ gaun ] noun count * 1. ) a special long dress worn by a woman, often for dancing or other special occasions: a ball gown a white wedding gown a ) a long dress worn by a woman in the past: ladies in silk gowns 2. ) a piece of formal clothing… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • gown — c.1300, from O.Fr. goune robe, coat, habit, gown, from L.L. gunna leather garment, skin, hide, of unknown origin. Used by St. Boniface (8c.) for a fur garment permitted for old or infirm monks. Klein writes it is probably a word adopted from a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • gown — [goun] n. [ME goune < OFr < LL gunna, loose robe, orig., fur cloak] 1. a long, loose outer garment; specif., a) DRESSING GOWN b) a nightgown, nightshirt, etc. c) a cotton smock worn by a surgeon d) a flowing robe worn as a symbol of office… …   English World dictionary

  • gown — ► NOUN 1) a long dress worn on formal occasions. 2) a protective garment worn in hospital by surgical staff or patients. 3) a loose cloak indicating one s profession or status, worn by a lawyer, teacher, academic, or university student. 4) the… …   English terms dictionary

  • gown — [n] robe, dress clothes, costume, frock, garb, garment, habit; concept 451 …   New thesaurus

  • gown — 01. She looked simply stunning in a classic red strapless evening [gown]. 02. The native chiefs wore their beautiful ceremonial [gowns] at the signing of the historic treaty. 03. The old woman had on a fetching black [gown] and a long string of… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • gown — noun 1 woman s long dress ADJECTIVE ▪ long ▪ floor length ▪ elegant ▪ flowing ▪ She was dressed in a long flowing gown …   Collocations dictionary

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