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Dearest Daughters,

I want to have a word about garments for housework.

 A housedress is a cute cotton dress comfortable enough to work in . . .  when you wear [it ] there will be no doubt in the minds of your family about who you are — queen of the household. Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin

What I saw with the women in my family, is that they got up each morning and got dressed for a real day’s work . . . inside the home! As a child, I loved that grandma and mom smelled good and looked cute. Simple, but cute. And we took them seriously!

The purpose of the housedress is to be feminine while tending to the domestic needs of the family. And cotton—the preferred fabric—is cool, comfortable, and washes easily.

The companion piece to the housedress is the apron; it protects clothing from spills and stains.

For Muslim women, the “housedress” varies by region and country. Styles are localized and go by many names: kanga, kaftan, kebaya, dupatta, direh (dirac), shalwar khameez, sarong, etc. These types of work clothing have been worn by Muslim housewives for many, many centuries.

The Muslim housedress often times come with a large matching rectangular piece of fabric. It is draped over the head and shoulders for modesty. It can also be used as a type of apron. And used to tie babies onto the backs of busy moms. This keeps little ones nearby but out of the way.

Domestic kaftans, salwar kameez, kebaya and other Muslim women’s housewear are simple, usually made from cotton or rayon/cotton blend. The fabrics are often highly decorative. And they are feminine. Adding flair to the plain house wear is easy with accessories such as ribbons, jewelry pins, etc.

I have observed many of my Muslim sisters from different parts of the world going about the day dressed for housework. I’ve watched them prepare meals, sweep and mop, or sit and drink tea, all while wearing a kaftan, shalwar, kanga, or what have you.

If you do not have feminine clothes to work in or an apron, purchase either. Better yet, make your own.

And should your kaftan/housedress become unsightly from the day’s activity, change into something different before your husband comes home. After all, most husbands come home from work and change out of their work clothes. We should as well.


Images: Wikimedia Commons