Another Tea Gown From the 1890s…

Lately, 1890s have been a major focus for us and especially when it comes to tea gowns. We recently came across this tea gown from circa 1890 (at least according to the auction website) that reflects a Japonisme style1Dating garments is more of an art than a science in many instances and sometimes the best that can be done it to approximate it to a decade.:

Tea Gown, c. 1890; Kerry Taylor Auctions

This is an interesting example because the outer dress on the front is a light pink robe that mimics a kimono, opening up to reveal a light cream colored underdress. Also, we note that the sleeves are properly part of the underdress and that the outer dress is sleeveless. Here’s a view of the rear:

The rear presents a more conventional view and gives a princess line appearance. Given the size of the sleeve caps, this tea gown is either from the early or late 1890s.  Here’s a close-up of the front:

The underdress is detailed with ruching and a net-like trim that draws the eye up towards the face. Below is a close-up of the embroidered design that runs along the front of the outer dress:

Close-up of the embroidered floral design.

The pattern is very subtle here and tends to blend in with the background of the dress fabric. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information available on this tea dress except to say that it was produced in Japan for the export trade. That’s perfectly possible although it could have just as easily been made in the West. Aesthetically, this is an interesting tea gown because of melding of Japanese and Western elements: from the front, there’s definitely a mock-kimono style while from the rear, it looks like any number of princess line dresses of the time. Stay tuned for more!

Japonisme Redux

Throughout the ages, Western fashion has incorporated foreign influences and the late 19th Century was no exception, most notably with the advent of Japonisme. Originally coined in 1872 by Philippe Burty, a French art critic, “Japonisme”  was used a term used to encompass the idea of the popularity and influence of Japanese art and design on Western European (and later by extension, American) culture.1Philippe Burty, Renaissance Littéraire et Artistique, May 1872-February 1873

James Tissot, Young Ladies Looking at Japanese Objects, 1869

Originating as an artistic movement, interest in Japonisme stemmed from the re-opening of Japan to the world, a process that began in 1854 with the forced re-opening of trade with the West. One of the foundations of Japan’s participation in the world economy was the export of textiles, both in the form of raw fabric and finished goods designed expressly for the Western market. Along with this, there also a flood of Oriental bric-a-brac that was exported in the form of fans, kimonos, lacquers, bronzes, and of course, silks, which began to attract much interest by Westerners, especially in Great Britain and France.

During this time, Japanese designs began to attract the interest of various artists who began to incorporate them into their work. One area of special interest were woodblock prints in the Ukiyo-e Style (“Floating World”) and these designs influenced artists such as Tissot, Monet, Degas, and Whistler, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Below are some examples of these woodblock prints:

Otani Oniji II, dated 1794 Toshusai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95) Polychrome woodcut print on paper; 15 x 9 7/8 in. (38.1 x 22.9 cm) Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939 (JP2822)

Otani Oniji II, dated 1794; Toshusai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)
Polychrome woodcut print on paper; 15 x 9 7/8 in. (38.1 x 22.9 cm)
Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939 (JP2822)

The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1831–33 Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849); Published by Eijudo Polychrome ink and color on paper; 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm) (Oban size) H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847)

The Great Wave at Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji), Edo period (1615–1868), c. 1831–33; Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849); H. O. Havemeyer Collection (JP1847)

Along with woodblock prints and other Japanese artwork, interest in the Japanese design aesthetic also included fabrics which incorporated motifs such as plants, flowers, insects, birds, and geometric patterns. Below are a few examples of textile designs from the 1880s:

Birds1

Textile1

Kimono1

Textile2

We can see further examples depicted by various notable Western artists themselves:

Claude Monet, Camille Monet in Japanese Costume, 1876; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

James Tissot, The Japanese Bath (La Japonaise au bain,), 1864

James Tissot, The Japanese Bath (La Japonaise au bain,), 1864.

James McNeill Whistler, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine

James McNeill Whistler, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine, 1863 – 1865.

So how does this translate into fashion? Well, garments of the period began to use traditional Japanese fabrics, largely in the form of kimono fabric. In many instances, the garments themselves were made from re-worked kimonos which were largely made from silk. Below are some examples:

1870 Court Dress

Day Dress, c. 1870s; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC8938 93-28-1AB)

1870 Tea Gown

Tea Gown, American, c. 1870; Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (80.1.4)

Side profile

Side profile

Close-up of the front.

Close-up of the front.

The above pictures are interesting in that they illustrate typical Japanese design motifs that would normally be found in Kimonos. Also, interestingly enough, the two above dresses were made from re-worked Kimono fabric which suggests that new markets were being found for kimonos that normally would be worn by a small class of upper class Japanese, primarily the wives of Samurai. Below is another interesting dress that utilizes a quilted habutai silk fabric:

House Dress,, Japanese c. 1875; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC989 78-30-3AB)

Moving forward into the 1880s, Japanese design influences still remained strong as can be seen in these examples:

Day Dress/Reception Dress, c. 1880s, belonging to Marquise Nabeshima Nagako; Jingu Chokokan Museum

Side Profile

Three-Quarter Rear Profile

 

 

Close-up of the train.

What is interesting about the above dress is that this one appears to have been made for the Japanese market. In this case, the dress reflects Japan’s increasing westernization and is a mix of traditional fabric design with western dress style. Note that the line of the cuirass bodice has fringe running along the bottom, creating a visual effect of elongating the bodice’s lines, covering the hips completely.

Dressing Gown/Wrapper, c. 1885; FIDM (80.40.1)

Three-Quarter Rear View

The use of kimonos as dressing gowns and even tea gowns was popular in the West and it allowed women to be able to wear something that did not not require the use of the corset, or at least having to lace up the corset to the degree normally required when wearing a dress. As the bustle disappeared from use in the 1890s and the lines of women’s dresses became more upright, kimonos began to be incorporated into designs for evening wear and some day wear and this is especially evident during the years from 1900 – 1913. Here’s one example from 1894-1896:

1890s Dress

Day Dress, c. 1894 – 1896; Indianapolis Museum of Art (74.351A-B)

The above example is a day dress typical of the mid 1890s with the characteristic leg-o-mutton sleeves, thin waist, and open bodice designed to appear to be a coat with an exposed shirtwaist (which was often a fake one that was actually part of the bodice itself). What is interesting in terms of Japonisme is the geometric pattern of the fabric which follows a fairly standard Japanese design motif. The provenance of the fabric is unknown but it’s clear that it’s not material from a reworked kimono.

Image result for japonisme definition philippe burty

Finally, we end this series with a wonderful example of Japonisme in the form of a Visite from Paris, circa 1890:

Cape/Visite, c. 1890; Kyoto Costume Institute (AC5367 86-17-7)

The above illustrations and descriptions barely touch the range of Japanese influences that were found in Western fashion during the late 19th Century but even from this limited sample, it can be seen that they served to create some stunning effects that only served to enhance the aesthetics and sheer beauty of the period styles. This is an area that has been largely neglected by those striving to recreate the fashions of the period and it merits further consideration.

The Kyoto Costume Institute

Kyoto Costume Institute

Although we have never visited the Kyoto Costume Institute in Kyoto, Japan, a friend of mine took the opportunity to do so while on a recent visit to  Japan. From the website, it’s hard to tell just what’s there to visit but my friend was in an adventuresome mood and it’s located relatively close to  his relations so he decided to take a chance- at worse, there would be no showroom or museum space and that would be that. However, as things worked out, it was an incredible experience sitting in an anonymous and non-descript setting….

First, if you’re expecting some sort of “curb appeal,” the answer was no…it could have been an office almost anywhere in Japan… 🙂

Upon entering, the receptionist and the security guard were a bit quizzical what a foreigner was doing there but after explaining that he wanted to view the collection, he was directed to the 5th Floor of the building where they have a small showroom:

Kyoto Costume Institute

Kyoto Costume Institute

From what they told my friend, apparently they stage a number of exhibits per year mostly in conjunction with another museum and that they even have a number of international travelling exhibits. The exhibition going on during my friend’s visit was 18th Century themed and he got got a few pictures for us:

Kyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume InstituteKyoto Costume Institute

Although it’s difficult to make out, my friend told me that the condition of all the garments and accessories were either in pristine condition or close to it. My friend also noted that he was given a personal tour by one of the assistant curators and he was impressed with their complete dedication to preserving and displaying the various fashion- “The level of dedication was samurai-like.” From my friend’s description and the pictures he sent me, we are definitely impressed and now we’re making plans to one day pay it visit in person. 🙂

Is It A Wrapper Or Is It A Tea Gown?

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:

butterick_autumn-1886-pattern-catalog.jpg

butterick_autumn-1886-pattern-catalog1-e1531075072322.jpg

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:

Butterick_Spring 1893 Pattern Catalog Tea Gown

Butterick_Spring 1893 Pattern Catalog Tea Gown

Butterick_Spring 1893 Pattern Catalog Tea Gown

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:

Worth tea gown afternoon dress c. 1890 - 1895

Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1890 – 1895; Royal Ontario Museum (969.223)

Worth tea gown afternoon dress c. 1890 - 1895

Note the boning…

Stay tuned for more! 🙂

 

The Tea Gown Revisited…

Image result for tea gowns 1890s

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.

Image result for tea gowns 1890s

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 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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