In the course of researching tea gowns, I came across an interesting thing while looking at reprints of the Autumn 1886 and Spring 1893 editions of the E. Butterick & Company’s pattern catalog. In looking at the illustrations, I noted that that while they seemingly appear to be tea gowns, with one exception, they’re labeled as “wrappers.” Let’s take a look- first, for 1886:
In looking at the various styles above, there are 12 wrapper patterns versus the lone tea gown pattern (No. 52). Interesting enough, style-wise, the one tea gown pattern appears fairly similar to many of the wrapper patterns. Just what the criteria was that separated the two styles is not obvious and would bear further study; perhaps it was simply a matter of marketing: a tea gown implies a more “fancy garment” while wrapper implies a more basic informal garment meant to be worn while at home.
Moving forward, we seen an explosion of choices in the Spring 1893 Butterick pattern catalog:
And once again, while there’s a wider variety of styles, many whose features mimic regular day dresses, they’re all labeled as wrappers. Of course, some of the styles are clearly ones that would be worn at home on in the presence of family members (maybe) but others are far more elaborate and imply that they would be worn in the presence of close friends for social occassions.
One useful way to look at tea gowns is that they tended to be more closely fitted that the wrapper, often boned and worn with a corset. Also, the tea gown was more “public” in that it was worn for more social occasions, albeit in the home. As with fashion in general, styles can be take to extremes so we’ll leave you with this example made by Worth in 1894:
Stay tuned for more! 🙂