A tub what?

This Sunday is Easter. So I was looking for Easter hats for Rose. [As an aside, don’t you wish hats would come back in vogue? All those frilly Easter hats, especially from the 40s, look like so much fun.]

But, back to the matter at hand… As I was saying, I was looking for Easter hats, perusing the Sears Catalog when a phrase I saw as I whizzed through pages stopped me in my tracks.



From the Spring 1929 Sears Catalog


Tub what???? Who would name a dress that? And why?

And why are they so hideous looking?

Easter hats forgotten, I started trying to solve the mystery of the Terrible Tub Frock.  It was no easy task. I had to call in the professionals (my friend Tara, Queen of the Search Engines). And just what did she help me learn?

Well, despite its very odd name, a tub frock is just a lightweight summer day dress that can be washed… i.e. thrown in the tub.

That’s it. Mystery solved.

They’ve been around since about 1909¹ (at least that’s the earliest reference found). And girls who are “thickly made” should avoid them: “It is a safe rule that all tub frocks should be short, a trying doctrine perhaps for those who are not blessed with slim ankles, but fashion is never kind to the thickly made girl²…” And finally, they’re perfect for “morning marketing, business, beach, or picnic wear” and even suitable for informal afternoons³.

I also determined that they aren’t all hideous. These tub frocks, shown in the May 1923 Pictorial Review, are pretty cute.



1925 Print Ad for Tub Frocks


I wonder how the muumuu craze of the 1970s will affect unwary researchers eighty some-odd years in the future? I hope they have an easier time of it than I had with tub dresses!

And now, poor Rose will be wearing last year’s Easter hat, all because of those danged tub frocks!

(One tiny bit of trivia before I go: Easter headwear did not earn the moniker Easter Bonnet until after 1933 when Irving Berlin coined them as such in his song Easter Parade.)


[1] Chicago Tribune, 1909

[2] Women’s Encyclopedia

[3] Spokane Spokesman, 1923

2 thoughts on “A tub what?

  1. Nan says:

    I don’t know, Taylor. Most of the dress fashions you’ve shared, I’ve liked, but this one makes me really glad I don’t have to wear one. I’m sure I’d resemble a tub with appendages if I had to wear any one of those frocks.
    But, until I read this, I’d never heard of voile or pongee. I do agree with you about wishing hats were back in vogue. Perhaps we can start the rage? I love my hats. They’re excellent sun protection.


  2. Er, yea, I think I’d have to be a good 8 inches taller and much less, er, thick, to wear those with any kind of elegance…
    It’s funny to think that back in the day when laundry was such a difficult, endless chore, clothes used yards and yards more fabric than they ever do now.


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