This weekend kicks off the unofficial beginning of summer and the weekend I pull out my summer housecoat.
Okay…so my paisley print summer dress with the stretchy fabric, loose-fitting waist, flattering halter-top and built-in bra (bonus!) isn’t exactly the housecoat of the 1950’s, but it serves the same purpose. Casual comfort.
When I was a little girl, my beautiful grandma, Lillian, introduced me to the idea of the housecoat. With her striking white hair, carefully applied make-up, and little pink or taupe colored high-heeled slippers (even her slippers had high heels!), my grandma pulled off the housecoat with grace and poise.
And, she had several housecoats for every season…for the summer, she wore the thin cotton variety in pretty pastels, which gave her at least a little relief when her 3rd floor apartment would reach a sweltering 94 degrees. On those days, after she made breakfast, lunch and/or dinner for us, she would carefully dab at the perspiration* on her brow as she settled in for the night on her sofa with her latest library book (*note: my grandma did not sweat; she perspired). In the winter, she would bundle up in her warmer, quilted housecoat collection in the same pastel colors. She would open the door to her apartment apologizing, “I hope you’ll excuse my appearance, I’m wearing my housecoat to keep warm.” My cute, polite and stylish grandma rubbed her hands together to keep her hands warm and grumbled, “My thermostat read 58 degrees this morning.” She was also tough as nails.
One summer, my grandma stayed with us for a few weeks after she had been in the hospital. While she couldn’t stand being sick and/or dependent upon others, she couldn’t stand the thought of looking sick even more, so she asked me if I would help with her hair and make-up. After a few failed attempts with the curling iron, we both realized that she needed to have her hair washed if we wanted to get her style just right.
As I carefully helped her over to the kitchen sink, she said, “I’ve been perspiring so much. What I’d love is a nice bath. I really don’t think I can take another sponge bath.”
And with that, we took a slight detour and somehow managed to get her all the way up the two flights of stairs and into the tub. It took a lot out of her, but she said she finally felt so refreshed, like a human being again. After she was all finished and toweled off, I brought over one of her freshly laundered housecoats which still smelled of her favorite perfume, Norell.
As I draped the housecoat over her shoulders, she looked up at me with her big hazel-brown eyes and said, “Beth, dear, you are going straight to heaven.”
I’ll never forget that moment.
So, if and when you see me out and about in my housecoat this summer, you’ll know who inspired it. My grandma…not only did she rock the housecoat, she was (is) one of the best KINDNESS role models for me and my family.