Domitius Enobarus: “This grief is crowned with consolation; your old smock brings forth a new petticoat: and indeed the tears live in an onion that should water this sorrow.” (Antony and Cleopatra)
Smocks were “loose, high-necked, shirt-like undergarments worn by women, sometimes used for nightwear; some were plan and made of coarse material” (Clark).
In the BBC article “Dressing to impress in the 17th century,” we learn that Early Modern women had a hard time figuring out the right balance of clothing to wear. They were encouraged to be “virtuous,” and one way they could display their virtue and purity was to dress in a way that didn’t show too much skin. The article gives us this interesting scenario where one person brought a woman in front of the court for dressing inappropriately: “In 1628 Catherine Baker was brought before the church courts for defaming Christian Nevell as a “button-smock whore”, an insult which suggests that Catherine thought Christian’s outfit was too revealing.”
Brittanica defines a smock as “a loose, shirtlike garment worn by women in the European Middle Ages under their gowns. The smock eventually developed into a loose, yoked, shirtlike outer garment of coarse linen, used to protect the clothes; it was worn, for example, by peasants in Europe. Modern smocks are loose, lightweight, sleeved garments, often worn to protect the clothes while working. Artists traditionally wore smocks to protect their clothing from paint, marble dust, or any other detritus from the medium in which they worked. Smocks have also been popular garments for pregnant women.”
Made of linen, smocks were often worn by farmers and peasants. It was rare to see a person of nobility wearing a smock. They had to be cleaned often, and children wore them frequently.