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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sir Christopher Hatton in a full-length, fur-lined gown with hanging sleeves, c. 1591

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 historical senses or in formal cases such as evening gown and wedding gown.

See also


Types of gowns


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

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GOWN, properly the term for a loose outer garment formerly worn by either sex but now generally for that worn by women. While "dress" is the usual English word, except in such combinations as "tea-gown," "dressing-gown" and the like, where the original loose flowing nature of the "gown" is referred to, "gown" is the common American word. "Gown" comes from the O. Fr. goune or gonne. The word appears in various Romanic languages, cf. Ital. gonna. The medieval Lat. gunna is used of a garment of skin or fur. A Celtic origin has been usually adopted, but the Irish, Gaelic and Manx words are taken from the English. Outside the ordinary use of the word, "gown" is the name for the distinctive robes worn by holders of particular offices or by members of particular professions or of universities, &c. (see Robes).

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