Tea Gowns were popular for wear at home, increasing in popularity during the 1880s and 1890s. The tea gown was a simple loose-fitting garment that was essentially an elaborate dressing gown/wrapper and as such was meant to be worn at home in the company of immediate family and close friends and especially if one was dining or taking tea. The tea gown was meant to be worn without a corset (although some women wore them anyway) and was never worn outside the house. One interesting variation on the tea gown design can be found with these two Classical Grecian-inspired designs that were offered for sale as patterns in the November 1891 issue of the Canadian edition of The Delineator:
Both of the above gowns were princess-cut and shaped by a combination of darts and gores. From the above illustrations, both garments were structured yet gave the illusion that the wearer was wearing a chiton. The loose sleeves go a long way towards enhancing this illusion. Of course, wearing an actual chiton would have been considered to be way too extreme for the time… 😉
We don’t know just how popular these patterns were but at a minimum, they would have been perfect for a fancy dress ball or the like. 🙂 It’s fascinating to see how Victorians interpreted prior periods in their dress and the above is just one instance of this; too bad the pattern isn’t available today. We hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into these tea gown variants.
Dior has always been a source of inspiration for us, both in style and color. Today, we came across these views from Dior’s Fall 2018 Couture Collection:
The color palette is simply exquisite, consisting of a series of cool shapes of green, and here’s the requisite palette:
All of the above colors are appropriate for the late 19th Century and here’s just a few examples from extant dresses:
Ballgown, Worth, 1898; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.1324a, b)
Felix, Day Dress, c. 1889; Albany Museum of History and Art (u1973.69ab)
Worth, Ballgown, 1889; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.68.53.11a, b)
Worth, Day Dress, c. 1890 – 1893; Kerry Taylor Auctions
Tea Dress, Worth c. 1895; Palais Galliera (GAL1964.20.4)
Now that’s some color inspiration! 🙂
Some of my clients have “pretty princess” goals, mine has always been to just look like the ladies on the old Coca-Cola advertising tins! Straight-fronted corsets, large perchy hats, and waterfalls of sheer ruffles… ♡
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:
Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1890 – 1895; Royal Ontario Museum (969.223)
Note the boning…
Stay tuned for more! 🙂
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.
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; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.637)
And here’s another offering from Worth, circa 1900 – 1901:
Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1900 – 1901; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.2498)
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. 🙂