A smock-frock or smock is an outer garment worn by rural workers in England and Wales from at least the early eighteenth century.

The traditional smock-frock is made of heavy linen or wool and varies from thigh-length to mid-calf length. Characteristic features of the smock-frock are fullness across the back, breast, and sleeves folded into "tubes" (narrow unpressed pleats) held in place and decorated by smocking, a type of surface embroidery in a honeycomb pattern across the pleats that controls the fullness while allowing a degree of stretch.


It is uncertain whether smock-frocks are "frocks made like smocks" or "smocks made like frocks" – that is, whether the garment evolved from the smock, the shirt or underdress of the medieval period, or from the frock, an overgarment of equally ancient origin. What is certain is that the fully-developed smock-frock resembles a melding of the two older garments.

Types of smock-frocks

* The round smock is a pullover style with an open neckline and a flat, round collar. This smock is reversible front-to-back.

* The shirt smock is styled like a man's shirt, with a collar and a short placket opening in the front. It is not reversible.

* The coat smock worn by Welsh shepherds is long and buttons up the front in the manner of a coat.

Historical use

Embroidery styles for smock-frocks varied by region, and a number of motifs became traditional for various occupations: wheel-shapes for carters and wagoners, sheep and crooks for shepherds, and so on. Most of this embroidery was done in heavy linen thread, often in the same color as the smock.

By the mid-nineteenth century, wearing of traditional smock-frocks by country laborers was dying out, although Gertrude Jekyll noticed them in Sussex during her youth, and smocks were still worn by some people in rural Buckinghamshire into the 1920s. Romantic nostalgia for England's rural past over the next decades, as epitomized by the illustrations of Kate Greenaway, led to a fashion for women's and children's dresses and blouses loosely styled after smock-frocks. These garments are generally of very fine linen or cotton and feature delicate smocking embroidery done in cotton floss in contrasting colors; smocked garments with pastel-colored embroidery remain popular for babies.

Today the name "smock" is still used for military combat jackets, particularly in the UK; in the Belgian army the borrowed English term has been corrupted to smoke-vest.

ee also

*Frock coat

External links

* [ Smocks at the Museum of English Rural Life]
* [ Origins of the smock at Historical Boys' Clothing]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Smock frock — Frock Frock (fr[o^]k), n. [F. froc a monk s cowl, coat, garment, LL. frocus, froccus, flocus, floccus, fr. L. floccus a flock of wool; hence orig., a flocky cloth or garment; cf. L. flaccus flabby, E. flaccid.] 1. A loose outer garment;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Smock frock — A coarse frock, or shirt, worn over the other dress, as by farm laborers. Macaulay. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • smock-frock — smockˈ frock noun A farm worker s smock • • • Main Entry: ↑smock …   Useful english dictionary

  • smock frock — n. a heavy smock, esp. of the kind formerly worn by European farm laborers …   English World dictionary

  • smock frock — noun : a loose shirtlike outer garment of coarse linen or cotton worn by workmen especially in Europe * * * a loose overgarment of linen or cotton, as that worn by European farm laborers. Cf. blouse (def. 3). [1790 1800] * * * smock frock, a… …   Useful english dictionary

  • smock frock — n. coarse loose smock worn by laborers mainly in Europe …   English contemporary dictionary

  • smock-frock — n. Smock, blouse …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • smock frock — noun Date: circa 1800 a loose outer garment worn by workmen especially in Europe …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • smock frock — a loose overgarment of linen or cotton, as that worn by European farm laborers. Cf. blouse (def. 3). [1790 1800] * * * …   Universalium

  • smock-frock —  a coarse linen shirt worn over the coat by waggoners, &c. called in the South a GABERDINE …   A glossary of provincial and local words used in England

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