Undressing the meaning of dishabille

From a New York Times story about science fiction and fantasy author Jack Vance:

When I was 14 or so, in the late ’70s, I knew an Advanced Boy, a connoisseur of all that was cooler than whatever his classmates were listening to, smoking or reading. I was impressed with myself for having graduated from Tolkien to E. R. Eddison and Michael Moorcock. “Kid stuff,” said the Advanced Boy. “Try this.” He handed me a paperback copy of Vance’s “Eyes of the Overworld.” On the cover a giant lizardlike creature was tipping over a rowboat containing a man in regulation swords-and-sorcery attire and a buxom woman in regulation dishabille.

Merriam-Webster Online gives these definitions for dishabille:

  • 1a. archaic : negligee
  • 1b. the state of being dressed in a casual or careless style
  • 2. a deliberately careless or casual manner

The American Heritage Dictionary has a slightly different take on 1b: "The state of being partially or very casually dressed."

I thought "regulation dishabille" was a clever turn of phrase. I got it right away without looking it up, having consumed plenty of sci-fi and fantasy with covers like this.

A negligee is defined as:

  • 1. a woman's long flowing usually sheer dressing gown
  • 2. carelessly informal or incomplete attire

Both dishabille and negligee have French origins:

  • dishabille: French déshabillé, from past participle of déshabiller to undress, from dés- dis- + habiller to dress. The word dates to 1673.
  • negligee: French négligé, from past participle of négliger to neglect, from Latin neglegere. It dates to 1756.