In The Works- Tea Gowns, Part 1

William Blake Richmond, Mrs Luke Ionides, 1882; V&A Museum (E.1062:1, 2-2003)

In recent posts, we’ve been going on about tea gowns and aesthetic dress and you’re probably beginning to wonder what it’s all about. Tea gowns have always been a big favorite with us and we’ve always wanted to explore this area more and we now that we have some free time, we’re going to act on it! 🙂 We’re looking to take the basic tea gown design and add a flair of Aesthetic style to it- more to follow on that! In the meantime, here’s some of the gowns that are inspiring us:

Worth, Tea Gown, c. 1895-1900; Modemuseum, Hasselt (2013.0075)

The fabric on the above gown is very striking and appears to be a gold-colored silk print floral pattern with a blue/lavender background and trimmed with lace. The silhouette is fairly typical of a house dress style although it’s evident that this was meant more for receiving guests at home than any practical work around the house. Interestingly enough, it appears that the bodice and skirt are separate pieces rather than the usual princess line style typical of this design. While this gown contains many Aesthetic Dress design elements, it’s still more of a mainstream style. Still, we love the fabric and clean lines (although we would be employing a one-piece princess-line style).

Tea/House Dress, c. 1905-1907; The State Hermitage Museum (ЭРТ-9473)

The above gown definitely reads Edwardian, lacking the defined curves characteristic of 1880s and 1890s tea gowns and as such, is seemingly a loose draped robe (although there is no doubt that a corset was worn underneath). What is most striking to us about this garment is the incorporation of Neo-Classical and Renaissance design elements with its straight lines and geometrical trim arrangement. In much the same vein, the tea gown below also captures many Aesthetic Dress features although it’s more structured:

Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to track down any specific information on this tea gown (the downside to Pinterest) but we believe that this either a late 1880s or early 1890s style. As with many examples of this style, the gown is designed to give the effect of an outer robe being worn over an full-length under-dress (in reality, these were actually a single garment with elements artfully arranged to give the appearance of there being two pieces).  Below is a more extreme example of the open robe effect with this circa 1888 example:

Tea Gown, c. 1888;

Finally, just to bring it home, there’s this example from circa 1890:

Tea Gown, c. 1890; Metropolitan Museum of Art (C.I.44.122)

Is it a tea gown? House dress? Something in between? Given the styling, we guess something that would have been worn to receive guests at home (and definitely not for going out). With this style, there’s not really any specific “Aesthetic Dress” style going on except to note that the basic silhouette is very similar with an emphasis on seeming ease of movement.

And of course, period artwork also inspires as with these two paintings by August Toulmouche:

August Toulmouche, Dolce Far niente, 1877, Private Collection

August Toulmouche, An Afternoon Idyll, 1874

So what’s going to be our specific design? Wait and see… 😉

One thought on “In The Works- Tea Gowns, Part 1

  1. Pingback: In The Works- Tea Gowns, Part 2 | Lily Absinthe

Leave a Reply