Tea Gowns- Some Notes

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Perhaps the extreme hot weather we’re dealing with in Southern California or simply the aesthetics but tea gowns have been an object of interest for us lately. As noted in a prior post, the tea gown was an informal garment that was meant to be worn without a corset (in practice, this was not always the case) although many tea gowns were boned in the bodice area to provide a little structure.

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There was certainly a wide variety of tea gown styles that were available ranging from ones mass-produced  for the middle class market to the haute couture varieties aimed at a more upscale clientele. Below is one example from 1894, complete with gigot sleeves, offered by Maison Worth:

Worth Tea Gown 1894

Worth, Tea Gown, 1894; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.637)

Worth Tea Gown 1894

Rear View

And here’s another offering from Worth, circa 1900 – 1901:

Tea Gown Worth c. 1900 - 1901

Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1900 – 1901; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2498)

Tea Gown Worth c. 1900 - 1901

Rear View

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And if one could not afford to buy a ready-made tea gown, they could make their own:

The tea gown offered another alternative for women’s wear and it’s interesting to see how the varieties that were out there. Stay tuned for more in the future. 🙂

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And Something For The Bridal Line…

I‘ve been slowly building a dress sample based on the styles of tea gowns and lingerie dresses from the 1899-1905 era for our Bridal line. This one is all fine sheer cottons, mostly pearl white worn over buttercream yellow, antique lace front panels and insertion, and dyed to match silk ribbon. Our original idea was to make this from white over blue…and then a friend gifted me with a bolt of vintage white and yellow dotted Swiss, and everything changed!  🙂


Tea Gowns…Early Edwardian Style

Today’s fashion feature centers around the tea gown. While we’ve had some extensive coverage of this topic in past posts, today we shift focus to the early 1900s with a few examples starting with this design from Maison Rouff that was featured in the July 1902 issue of Les Modes:

And here’s another gown by Rouff from circa 1900:

Rouff, Tea Gown, c. 1900; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.87-1991)

As with earlier tea gowns, there were a variety of individual styles available to the fashion consumer but the one thing that’s striking about the above examples is that they combined soft layers with a distinctive decorated vertical front that ran the full length of the garment that served to draw the eye. Also, we see the the empire waist style being used as a style element as can be seen in the above gown. Below is a little more unstructured design from Maison Worth:

Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1900-1901; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2498)

The black and white photography really shows off the floral and stripe pattern on the outer robe portion of the gown.

Rear View

Like the other gowns, Worth’s tea gown also features a train. On the other hand, lace is de-emphasized, only being used for the sleeves and trim around the neck. But what about tea gowns that weren’t made by high-end couture houses? Well, for those of lesser means, paper patterns were available for the home sewer and dressmaker such as this one that was featured in the January 31, 1901 issue of Vogue Magazine:

And then there’s this pattern featured in the July 24, 1902 issue:

The above images give a glimpse of tea gown trends during the early 1900s. From what we’ve seen, the one thing that stands out is that in contrast to the 1890s, the upper sleeve and shoulder were de-emphasized and lace seemed to play a more prominent role in sleeve design. In this post, we’ve painted with some pretty large brush strokes and in future posts, we hope to refine this a bit more, However, in the meantime, use these images as a source of inspiration. 🙂