House Jackets (Sweater Vests) a Hundred Years Ago

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, September 10, 1914: Called on Carrie this afternoon.

1914-09-39 e
Source: Ladies Home Journal (September, 1914)

This design is the ever-useful “hug-me-tight,” of waist length and with a pretty variation in collar and sleeves.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Carrie Stout was a good friend of Grandma’s who lived on the nearby farm. In my mind, I picture Carrie and Grandma sitting in a quiet corner of the living room, leaning forward towards each other while excitedly chatting about Grandma’s recent trip . . . guys . . . neighborhood gossip. . . whatever.

Were the days starting to get cooler? The house may have had a chill since the heating stove in the living room probably wasn’t yet operating.  Maybe Grandma and Carrie wore “house jackets” (I think that I’d call these sweaters, sweater vests, or short-sleeved sweaters, but the September, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal called them house jackets.)

1914-09-39 cHouse jackets of soft fleecy worsted are as popular as ever and each year brings to us some dainty new designs. The one in pale blue is made in almost straight lines and designed to wear in the house or under a coat. The revers form a good chest protector if one is needed with an open coat.

1914-09-39 dAn adorable kimono which every woman loves is unmistakable in the pink-and white-garment.


36 thoughts on “House Jackets (Sweater Vests) a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Wasn’t this the era of bed jackets, too? I’ve never heard of house jackets, but they clearly would have been a practical addition to a wardrobe.

    Are sweater vests still popular? I used to wear them in high school and college, and I still have a couple. I haven’t worn one in decades, though — partly because I’ve been living in warm climates. But maybe fashion has passed me by now.

    1. Yes, it was also the era of bed jackets. In the days before central heating,there was more of a need for warm clothes. I did a previous post on bed jackets.

      I also used to wear sweater vests when I was in high school. I think that the look is somewhat different today, but I recently some types of short-sleeved sweaters for sale at the mall.

  2. I can understand why they needed these. It reminds me a little of the little sweater capes that the protagonist is wearing in Outlander. I had no idea they wore those. They remind me of shrugs that were in styles a few years ago.

  3. In the early caveman days, the wore a fur cape. So the idea of house coats goes back a long way. My grandmother always wore a house jacket. She said her heater was on the fritz. She just isn’t want to pay the bill. It was always cold at Grandma’s house!

  4. I too imagine your grandma & her friend in the way you described. I can imagine what fun it was. I bet she showed Carrie the photos and chatted about all the things you mentioned.
    I like the various jackets that folks wore back then: house jackets, dressing jackets, bed jackets and of course the men’s smoking jacket. I think the jackets was a good way to help keep warmer because sometimes the heating wasn’t quite what it is today. Also the jackets probably helped to extend the times between washings by protecting their clothes.
    There’s something charming about the house/bed/dressing jackets. If I had the patience and skills I would make myself one. I’ve tried a few failed attempts. I finally gave up and bought a plain light weight sweater that serves the purpose. I still have it in my mind to ‘try’ to make a h/b/d jacket again someday. Maybe the next time I try will be successful… Ah, dare to dream. 🙂

    1. I almost always wear a sweater during the cold-weather months, but some of these jackets are much more stylish. I know that I lack the skills to make one. . . On the other hand, you are very skilled at needlework. I bet that if you gave it another try that it would turn out awesomely. 🙂

  5. My mother wore something similar to a short-sleeved, cotton “robe”, which she called a house coat. As cold-natured as I am, I need to make a few of these!

    1. So did my mother. She always wore it on Sunday mornings when she made breakfast. She didn’t want to get her church clothes dirty, so she wore her house coat and then got ready for church after breakfast.

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