A smock-frock (more commonly called simply a smock) is a long coat like garment worn over regular clothing to protect it from getting dirty. There is a great deal of variety in the different smocks available. Smock-frocks can either be pullover garments or constructed more like a coat with fasteners of some sort running down the front to close it. Some have ornate collars, while others simply have an opening for the head. The most plain of smocks are barren of any extraneous ornamentation and are reversible from front to back.
The smock-frock dates back to the early 18th century where was worn by travelers traversing the muddy roads. The fashion quickly caught on amongst rural farmers who were looking for new ways to protect their clothing during a period of economic hardship. The smock was particularly popular due to its durability and ease of cleaning. During the 18th and very early 19th centuries smock-frocks were often embroidered with decorative designs that signified the region in which it was produced. Over time this tradition faded and smocks became far more utilitarian than decorative.
In today’s popular culture smocks are most commonly associated with fine arts painters who wear them to protect their clothing from paint spatters. Though it should be noted that the ever-present lab coat bears a striking resemblance to smocks in both purpose and design.