There is a tea coming up, to which my Lady Mother and I have been invited, and we’re quibbling over what to wear. In our modern-American-brains we both thought “tea gowns, of course,” garments neither of us possess. So I went off looking for references, just out of curiosity, and got a bit of an education on what a tea gown actually is.
I had thought a tea gown was a frothy-ish dress worn indoors, late in the day (teatime, of course). What I learned is that tea gowns were actually a garment worn as “undress,” in one’s own home only, in order to receive visitors. They were never worn *out* of the home, never worn for visiting, and were typically worn without corsets. Tea gowns were literally really fancy, slightly fitted bathrobes.
Here is a selection of late Victorian tea gowns I collected from The Met online collections:
1891 – not my favorite design, but I like the tie around the waist, and the loose fit.
1875. Beautiful, frothy, and not worn with a corset, but with a snug-fitting bodice.
1880 – the back. Love the train, and the jacket-like fit to the back.
1885 – my absolute favorite. It has a Chemise a la Reine feel to it.
1890 – beautiful color and a lovely train out the back. It almost looks 1870s, yeah?
My conclusion is that I will need to wear a visiting dress (a day dress) to this tea up in Virginia City, not a tea gown. Do I have a Victorian day dress? Yes, yes I do…tea hee!