I’ve been collecting the names that consumers, stores, and manufacturers used for the humble dresses that most American women wore in their daily activities well into the 1960s. “House dress” is a common one, as are “wash dress” or the similar “tub dress.” However, this ad in a 1930 Montgomery Ward catalog is the first time I’ve seen the very accurate term “work dress.”
The ad shows the kind of work this dress was made to handle. If you click on the image you can read about its special, sturdy design. Made of exclusive “Home Tex” cotton, with strong seams and roomy features, the dress was guaranteed for a full six months of wear. (I wonder why a mention of Mississippi plantations was considered a selling feature.) Although the price seems ridiculously cheap us today, there were even cheaper dresses in the catalog—so buyers were paying for the construction details. It is no surprise that the drawing depicts a young, slim woman, but note that the sizes go up to a 53 inch bust. This dress was built for young and old, thick and thin, although larger women had to pay more for their “extra” sizes.