I’d like to think the house coat entering my life was an act of fate. A close friend of mine was gifted two nearly identical pieces this past holiday season, and she kindly offered me the spare during our COVID-compliant New Year’s Eve gathering.
While I had my reservations about this particular breed of loungewear—a knee-length sweater-robe-shawl in pebbled black and gray sherpa with blanket stitching around the edges—curiosity got the better of me. It looked like a roughly structured adult-size swaddle and I was powerless to its cozy appeal.
I slipped on the polyester house coat (a now-sold-out number from Charter Club Intimates) and, without even noticing, proceeded to wear it for the next seven days. Subconsciously, the coat became a sort of second skin—I worked in it, binged Netflix in it, cooked in it, walked my dog in it, bought groceries in it, and even fell asleep in it on more than one occasion. I spent the entire first week of 2021 bundled up in an objectively ill-fitting item I thought would never see the light of day (sorry, Lauren!)—but I couldn’t have been happier, or more comfortable.
For the uninitiated, a house coat is basically a cardigan/coat that offers the ease and functionality of a robe, the comfort of a cozy sweater, and the silhouette of longline jacket. The term was popularized in the 1940s when housewives would don a quilted covering to protect their actual outfit while doing household chores (there are plenty of vintage options available on Etsy). The appeal is understandable: The house coat is more presentable than a robe but less structured than typical outerwear and can be worn inside or outside—even in freezing temperatures.
Of course, my interest in house coats has nothing to do with chores and everything to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Without being forced to shelter in place for nine-plus months, I never would have been in the market for a wearable blanket that’s polished enough for a Zoom call but comfortable enough for a midday depression nap.
I’m far from alone in this renewed interest in loungewear—sales of cozy standbys like pajamas and sweatpants skyrocketed by 80-plus percent last year, while newer innovations like the Zoom top and matching cashmere sets went mainstream.
But the house coat in particular feels like the sartorial extension of quarantine. Just as lockdown blurred the lines between work and leisure, weekdays and weekends, living and merely existing, the house coat blends all salient aspects of standard outerwear into a single, blanket-inspired garment. It’s basically the universal answer to quarantine dressing woes—unlike the house dress, which isn’t quite as versatile as the millions of selfies would lead you to believe. House dresses are warmer-weather affairs and often read like true nightgowns, thanks in part to the use of gauzy linen and ruffled hems. House coats, on the other hand, come in a range of fabrics and weights, rendering them wearable throughout multiple seasons.
Sure, all of this is basically peak quarantine. But despite the house coat’s unique pandemic appeal, I see myself wearing my sherpa swaddle long after lockdown. Comfort aside, I’ve grown fond of the idea of dressing for personal satisfaction, as opposed to only spending my money on Insta-worthy items deemed “cool.” What’s more, there are plenty of house coats out there that are far more sophisticated than my beloved fluffy dressing gown—shop a few of my favorites below.
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