Saturday, September 12, 2009

Coffee Coats, or What to Wear in the Morning

I love vintage ads, and I was really happy to find one inside one of my patterns the other day. The newspaper ad was from the Tuesday edition of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and dated March 11, 1969. The ad for Babette Coffee Coats was pinned to one of the tissue pieces in a pattern copyrighted in 1968. So I know that not only was the pattern used about the same time it was issued, I also know that the sewist lived in my neck of the woods!

So what is a coffee coat? A coffee coat is more commonly known as a "breakfast coat," or even more commonly, a "house coat." A coffee coat could also double as a "house dress" in some cases, and some could be worn on the street. Today coffee coats may be most commonly known as a cardboard or fabric sleeve that keeps your coffee warm and your hand cool, but formerly they had a long and useful history as women's apparel.

According to Modern Pattern Design, by Harriet Pepin (copyright 1942), coffee coats evolved out of the hostess gown, or an after-dinner gown that was worn for lounging comfortably inside of the house. These were often coordinated to compliment the decor in the house, and were often made in sumptuous fabrics such as velvet and silk. Here are some examples from 1948, as photographed by Nina Leen for Life magazine:

In contrast, coffee coats were worn in the morning, and were most often made from cotton, gingham, and calico. Coffee coats differ from dusters or smocks in that they were not meant to be worn over other clothes in order to keep them from being soiled. Although similar to robes, they were meant to be seen by casual visitors and thus were socially correct to wear in front of company, unlike an old flannel bathrobe.

I think that once I find the right pattern, I'll make one of these myself. Maybe wearing a cheery coffee coat is just what this night person needs to face each bright and shiny new morning!


  1. Sometimes I wish we still wore clothes like that! And for it to be acceptable!

    I found you over at; am now following and looking forward to your fashionable posts. ;)

  2. I love the idea of wearing a coffee coat! How gorgeous would you feel in one of those pictured?! I love anything vintage and have really enjoyed visiting your blog. I look forward to seeing pictures of your finished coffee coat. Sending smiles from SITS.


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