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Old 02-06-2012, 04:38 AM
AK84 AK84 is offline
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When did people stop dressing for dinner?

Inspired by Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs and a long love of all things Edwardin, I have to wonder when did people stop dressing formally for dinner in their own houses? My Grandmother (born 1924) tells me that she remembers that her parents did occasionally, but she never did (married 1948). I know it was only the upper and middle classes who did so, but when did the habit die out?
Old 02-06-2012, 07:36 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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Location: Adelaide, Australia
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One suspects that an important aspect is when it was considered that what was worn before, during the day, was unsuitable attire for dinner. Spending all day down pit or muckin' ot t' pigs, was not something that was conducive to a family dinner. Clearly morning dress, hunting or shooting attire was not suitable either.

The above only really applied to the male family members. The women would have been at home all day anyway. Perhaps herein lies a clue. The destruction of the serving class (those "in service") occurred pretty much at the end of WWI. Before then even the middle classes would have three or four servants. After, only the truly wealthy did. At this point the wives would find themselves cooking meals, not a cook. While there were servants to cook and serve the evening meal, dressing for dinner was a luxury that was easy to maintain. Once gone, standards slipped.
Old 02-06-2012, 10:42 AM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Looking at my 1937 (U.S.) etiquette book, "It is always kind to tell people you are inviting whether or not you are dressing. Usually, in large cities it is best to dress unless your hostess dfinitely asks you not to do so."

If it was optional for dinner parties by the 1930s, it must have died out for family-only dinners much earlier.
Old 02-06-2012, 05:05 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Location: Fort Worth, Texas
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Back in the 1970s, my parents insisted that the whole family dress for Sunday dinner. As in, we had to wear something that they considered to be appropriate for church. This meant that the girls could BARELY get buy with nice slacks, but they preferred to see us in dresses. I don't remember what they required of my brother. We were middle/upper middle class.
Old 02-06-2012, 05:13 PM
Merneith Merneith is offline
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I can't really answer the OP's specific question, but here's an awesome MST3k short called, "A Date with Your Family". Originally released in 1950, it explains the benefits of dressing for dinner and looking attractive for the menfolk.

"Daughter has changed from school clothes into something more festive. [Servo: well, sort of]. Dressing a little makes her feel, and consequently look, more charming".
Old 02-06-2012, 08:51 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Are you sure that the habit has died out? For instance, do you think the royal family doesn't dress for dinner when they are eating at the palace? Or that lesser nobility don't?
Old 02-06-2012, 10:00 PM
dangermom dangermom is offline
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Location: Northern CA
Posts: 9,154
I've read a lot of Angela Thirkell novels--humorous chronicles of upper-middle class English people--and from her stories, I got the impression that WWII was what really did it in. Posh people were still changing for dinner before the war, but what with rationing and working all the time and everything being difficult, people mostly gave it up. Why dress fancy when you're going to have rice and tomato sauce for dinner? By the time things were back to normal, it was an entirely new normal--one with a lot less money and leisure and help.

So, that's of course all from fiction, but she was at least writing the books at the time and knew the sort of people she wrote about.
Old 02-06-2012, 10:10 PM
Jamicat Jamicat is offline
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Location: Clearwater
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How many Washers and Dryers in the Home x How many People Dressing 3 times a day x How many Servants = ...?

( I do suggest cleaning up if "Dirty",...Clothes + Body...(Dirty is Subjective) )

Last edited by Jamicat; 02-06-2012 at 10:13 PM.
Old 02-08-2012, 05:00 PM
Toucanna Toucanna is offline
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Location: 6' deep in the heart o'Tx
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[nitpick]The Edwardian age ended with the death of Edward VII in 1910. George V was monarch during the Great War.[/nitpick]
Old 02-09-2012, 03:49 AM
Dereknocue67 Dereknocue67 is offline
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Location: Norfolk, VA
Posts: 1,042
I believe they stopped shortly after the Golden Arches made an appearance.


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