Tea gown

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tea gown or tea-gown is a woman's at-home dress for informal events which became popular around the mid 19th century characterized by unstructured lines and light fabrics. Early tea gowns were a European development influenced by Asian clothing and historical approach from the 18th century which led to the renaissance time period of long and flowing sleeves.[1][2] Part of this European sense of fashion came from the Japanese Kimono as they were worn by Japanese women during a wedding or any formal ceremonies.[3] First to introduce the tea gown was in 1840's by a woman called Anna Maria Russell, a friend of Queen Victoria (1783-1857).[4] Russell was credited for “Inventing afternoon tea”.[4] Anything with the gown, manners and the ritual of the afternoon tea ceremony came from Russell.[4] Her friendship with the queen put her at a higher chance of fitting in the society by becoming a strong influential individual.[5] Russell became

popular due to her high influence on the tea culture on the society, not for the tea parties.[6] After her death,the tea culture that she worked on existed for another 153 years.[4]

Liberty & Co. tea gown of figured silk twill, c. 1887. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2007.211.901.A tea gown or tea-gown is a woman's at-home dress for informal entertaining of the late 19th to mid-20th centuries characterized by unstructured lines and light fabrics. Early tea gowns were a European development influenced by Asian clothing,[7] part of the japonism of Aesthetic dress.

Tea gowns are supposed to be worn without a corset for comfort without the need of help from the maid; however, elegance always came first.[8] At the beginning of the 20th century, Lucile was one of the first designers to abolish corsets from the gown for the sense of comfort for women.[9]

Stages of a tea gown:

  1. Morning wear (Undress): Were to be worn early in the morning[10]
  2.  Afternoon wear (Half Dress): Worn during the day for visitations of friends of family. Consists of high neck line with long and flowing sleeves[10]
  3. Evening wear (Full Dress): Were to be worn in the evening for dinner parties and such. Consists of low neck lines with short to almost no sleeves[10]

From 1920-1930, tea gowns were consistent of long and tight sleeves surrounded by lace cuffs mid way through the sleeves.[11] The entire gown is very similar to a ball dress in an old fashion sense.

During the 19th century, it was not appropriate for women to be seen wearing a tea gown.[8] The main concept of the outfit was to be worn indoor with friends and close friends during a dinner party.[8] Tea gowns are a combination of a house wear and what seems to be appropriate in front of friends and family.[11]

Although this graceful and feminine stylish form of gown was meant for a mid-day garments, the length of its time extended to night time.[11] Women started wearing tea gowns in the evening for dinner or certain events at home with close friends and family by 1900.[11] Tea gowns that were made for during the day consist of a high neck and as for the ones made for the evening, lower necks were more suitable.[11] Evening gowns were decorated with long gloves, marvelous hats and small handbags to feature the evening look.[10]


  1. ^ Hsieh, Ifang (January 19, 2012). "Tea gowns are not for tea parties". T CHING. 
  2. ^ "Downton Abbey Season 2: Teagowns and relaxation". Jane Austen's World. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  3. ^ Favors, LaTasha. "Japanese Kimono History". USA TODAY. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Understanding Anna". LEAFBOX TEA. September 22, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Understanding Anna". LEAFBOX TEA. September 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Understanding Anna". LEAFBOX TEA. September 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ Takeda and Spilker (2010), p. 112
  8. ^ a b c "Terminology: What is a tea gown?". The Dreamstress. June 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ "sip & style: tea gowns". teaspoons & petals. April 14, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d Easton, Ellen. "TEA TRAVELS (TM) - The Afternoon Tea Gown and LaBelle Epoque". Old fashioned living. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Post, Emily. Dress. Post, Emily. Dress. 


  • Post, Emily, Etiquette (1922)
  • Takeda, Sharon Sadako, and Kaye Durland Spilker, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 - 1915, LACMA/Prestel USA (2010), ISBN 978-3-7913-5062-2

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