A Very Generalized Brief History of the Redingote
The redingote, as the French called this fashion based on heavy overcoats worn by men for riding and coaching, appeared in the early 1700’s as a man’s coat, often split in back from waist to hem in order to fit easily over the back of a horse. By the late 1700’s there were both male and female garments called “redingotes.” [see Boucher, esp. p. 429] The woman’s redingote could open all the way down the front, but some variations were cut away in front at the waist, either partly or almost to the side seam.
A good source of information about both men’s and women’s redingotes is Francois Boucher’s 20,000 Years of Fashion. Via the frock coat, the redingote was an ancestor of both the man’s cutaway (or “morning coat”) and the tailcoat — both still worn by men today for very formal occasions.
By the 1800’s, “redingote” usually referred to any lady’s over-garment that could be opened from neck to hem, exposing the dress beneath.
No longer made chiefly for warmth and weather protection, the woman’s redingote was a popular Regency style.
Obviously, this was no longer a riding outfit. One enduring (and slenderizing) feature of the woman’s redingote was that it could be worn partially unfastened, revealing a long sliver of the garment underneath. Patterns of History has a good set of early images in its history of the redingote. Click here. The “redingote” persisted into the 1830‘s, and resurfaces periodically as a description of any overdress that can be worn open from neck to hem in front to reveal another garment which is intended to be seen.
Redingotes in the 1920’s
Couturiers had continued to use the open coat or overdress occasionally, but in the 1920’s, the redingote officially reappeared, worn open over an underdress or costume slip.
The open redingote created a long vertical line from top to bottom; it should have been very appealing to women who were not flattered by the low, horizontal belt of the 1920’s.
Pattern no. 1958 came in a very wide range of sizes, from age 15 years to bust measure 52 inches.
This redingote style was also available for larger women up to size 52:
The next two nineteen twenties’ redingotes, both Butterick patterns, were made of sheer fabrics and worn over an opaque undergarment. They were not described as redingotes, but as coat-dresses. However, the dress and coat are separate garments.
[“Bois de rose” — rosewood — was a chic 1920’s brownish-pink color. The matching satin slip of a coat-dress would never have been worn by itself.]
If you’re afraid that you’d look like a sack of potatoes in a 1920’s dress, consider a twenties’ ensemble like this one — perfectly authentic. The print collar draws our eyes up toward the face; the belt is not tight enough to cause a blouson effect.
Redingotes in the 1930’s
The redingote continued into the 1930s, and was made in see-through materials later in the decade.
“It looks so different from anything we have seen for a long time.” In Delineator magazine, “a long time” was apparently about three years, but the 1930’s fitted waist and long hem are quite different from 1928’s redingotes. Here are Butterick redingotes 3837 and 3850 without their coats:
A redingote was again recommended for its slenderizing properties in 1938:
But the redingote below, from the same issue, was part of a fashion for sheer summer clothing:
And now it’s time to thank Lynn at American Age Fashion for showing us this photo by Ben Shahn from the Library of Congress archives:
It was Lynn’s post about these older women wearing sheer dresses that made me wonder, “Is that a redingote on the left?” (I’m still not sure, since it doesn’t fall open below the waist.)
And, now that I’ve lightened the image, I see that the dress on the right is only closed at the midriff, exposing the under slip. Could it be called a redingote, too? If it opens down her back, or at the side, no. But if those buttons are not purely decorative, and it opens down the front, yes.
Both ladies have secured the collars of their dresses, one with a bar pin and the other with a flower pinned in place.
Thanks, Lynn, for inspiring my 20th century redingote quest!