Tea Dresses & Tea Gowns

%22Tea-Gown and Walking-Costume by M. Worth%22 an illustration in the article %22February Fashions%22 in The Woman's World edited by Oscar Wilde
“Tea-Gown and Walking-Costume by M. Worth” an illustration in the article “February Fashions” in The Woman’s World edited by Oscar Wilde (London: 1887-1890)

What a delight! Victorian tea dresses and gowns were a household staple for the lady of the house. Whether relaxing at home or awaiting casual guests, it was expected that ladies be prettily dressed in tea dresses or tea gowns for all manner of entertaining at home.

As defined in this lovely Wikipedia article on tea gowns :
A tea gown or tea-gown is a woman’s at-home dress for informal entertaining which became popular around the mid 19th century characterized by unstructured lines and light fabrics. Tea gowns were intended to be worn without a corset or assistance from the maid; however, elegance always came first.
During the 19th century, it was not appropriate for women to be seen in public wearing a tea gown. They were intended to be worn indoors with family and close friends during a dinner party.

Although tea gowns were meant for midday wear, they could be worn into the evening. Women started wearing tea gowns in the evening for dinner or certain events at home with close friends and family by 1900. Tea gowns intended for day wear usually had high necks, while evening tea gowns had lower necks.

I have always been a fan of the idea of wearing beautiful house dresses in the home and expect that I shall soon be the owner of some tea gowns of my own.

They just feel to me like the most natural and beautiful way to dress around the home and it’s such a pity that they have gone mostly out of fashion. Oh, how lovely it would be to recline in these sumptuous designs after a morning in the daily hug of a beautiful corset. (I’m so looking forward to receiving my black mesh waspie from Orchard Corset to wear daily during my CORSET CURVES 3 Months Corset + Exercise Experiment. And even more excited to buy their nude mesh waspie to consider wearing under my wedding dress!)

But back to the topic of tea dresses…
It must be said that I am an ardent fan of the designs of House of Worth. There is something so breathtaking about their creations that I strongly feel I would have been a devout wearer during their heyday. Every time I lay eyes on their creations – even unknowingly – I feel a thrill of delight at the sheer mastery of fabric and the spectacle of the true work of a master couturier. (As you can see at the bottom of this post in the gallery of House of Worth tea gowns.)

Their tea gowns are a sight to behold and some of their evening dresses truly make me want to be transported back to the 1890’s to attend just one opera and a dinner!
Instead I shall content myself with watching period movies like The Age of Innocence and Pride and Prejudice and enjoy living the best of both the modern and the old world – every modern convenience of today in a bustling city, together with corsets and sconces and lovely home fittings. All I need is few beautiful tea dresses and some pretty tea sets and serving pieces from the Victorian Trading Co. and I’m all set for some fabulous home entertaining!

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Raven Tao

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