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The Tea Gown

The very earliest tea gowns started to appear in the 1870s and fell out of fashion just before the second world war.

It is characterized by its unstructured lines, lightweight fabric, and ease of dress and removal. It is designed to be worn without a corset or the assistance of a maid.

The tea dress has its first origins in Europe, notably Britain. It was a mix of the European interest in Asian fashion, I.e., long flowing comfortable robes of the Kimono, and the comfortable Watteau back that was so popular in gowns of the late 16th century. Comfort being the operative word.

In the early days of the tea gown, it was not appropriate for one to be seen wearing such a dress in public. It was met for mid-day informal wear. As time went on, the tea gown evolves into the lovely lightweight, white and lace dresses we see gracing the ladies of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.

By the 1920s, the rules of what was considered "public" had relaxed. Consequently, the tea gown morphs again into what we would consider the beginnings of modern resort wear.

Of interest

It has long been a custom of men and women to entertain in their bedrooms. The fact that a ladies maid was no longer required to assist with dressing, led to some interesting shenanigans. The hours between 5 and 7 gave rise to the French term "cinq a sept" which referred to the hours when one would receive their lover. Many upper-class marriages were rife with indiscretions. It was an accepted practice that between those times, the husband or wife would not seek each other's company, thereby freeing up the time to entertain their lovers with no danger of interruption.

Oh, la la......

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