The Evening Statesman, Walla Walla, Washington, January 21, 1910

“Sir, you’re a woman” hisses detective; “Sir, I am; what of it?”

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I finished my seven day embellished edwardian ensemble! This is based on something Sybil wears on Downton Abbey. I made it in a week out of materials I had laying around. 

The bodice is made from brocade, with chiffon and lace sleeves that are decorated with beads and sequins that were sewn on by hand. The bodice is lightly boned and closes at the back with a mixture of eyelets and hooks.

The “harem pants” are made from almost eight yards of chiffon in three different colors. They also close with hooks, which are hidden by the asymmetrical draping. I pieced together a matching headpiece out of bits I had leftover, and the costume was complete!  

Since this is based off Paul Poriet’s work it is worn without a corset, which makes it surprisingly comfortable and easy to move in despite it being an evening ensemble. 

I’m pretty pleased with the end result - it’s fun to wear and I had a lot of fun making it! Construction notes on the process can be found here.

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History Facts:: Christina O'Gorman.
Believe it or not, this beautiful pictures were taken more than 100 years ago, specifically in 1913. Photography in colour was not uncommon since the Autochrome process was patented by Lumière brothers in 1903. Christina was photographed by an english engeneer called Mervyn O'Gorman whose works became him into a pioneer of color photography. But even when these pictures are unforgettable, the name of Christina since to be gone. At first,and for many years, it was believed that Christina was, in fact, Mervyn’s daugther, but new researches suggest that she may be a relative or friend. In 1897 Mervyn had married Florence Rasch, who was eighteen years older than her husband. Some interested on the topic claim that there is no record of the couple having children, at least until 1911. However,the name of Christina O'Gorman appeared in the census of 1911, she was 13 by then, reason why today is believed to be O'Gorman’s neice instead his daughter. The truth is neither of the links between both could be proved until today. Who was really Christina is a whole mistery, but her pictures will be timeless possibly forever.

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It’s FRIDAY FASHION FACT! If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of my favorite aspects of fashion history is the influence of society on dress. I can’t believe I haven’t written about today’s topic yet, since it is one of the best examples of this! We’re talking tea gowns!

Tea gowns rose to popularity in the late 1870s, reaching widespread popularity throughout the late 19th to early 20th centuries. To put it simply, a tea gown is an informal garment worn in the house- you guessed it- at tea time, though later they were worn at dinnertime as well. What is so interesting about tea gowns is that their creation was a direct result of the rapidly changing society of the time.

The Industrial Revolution led to a dramatic rise in urbanization. Naturally, this congested setting shifted social customs. Increased social circles meant increased social obligations. Visiting a friend or acquaintance for tea quickly became one of the most popular social calls, namely because it was the shortest. Custom dictated that one would not stay for more than half an hour for tea. The short time frame meant a less formal atmosphere.

On a different note, during this same time, there was a strong Asian influence on design. Due to the 1868 Meiji Restoration, trade lines between Japan and Europe opened up, bringing a steady stream of Japanese goods to the Western world. Using these pieces, homes were decorated in the exotic style. Kimonos also held a fascination among the Victorians, many adopting them as dressing gowns. Women would commonly host members of their wide social circles in their homes (particularly the parlors) to show off their creative interpretation of Asian and exotic inspired design. So how does this all connect to the tea gown?

To begin with, women desired a specific garment for these new abridged social calls- something relatively informal, yet still fashionable. Tea gowns have been described as a blend between a dressing gown and an evening gown. They were a far more relaxed style than the majority of fashions at the time. They were often loose fitting, and were often worn without the usual restrictive shapewear- namely bustles and (gasp!) corsets. Naturally, this meant that tea gowns were a very controversial garment, with many condemning them as lewd and immoral. Of course, many women who were so accustomed to wearing corsets still wore them with tea gowns, but disguised it with a loose bodice. Since they were so relaxed, though, a lady would never leave the house in a tea gown. As a result, only the hostess would wear one, while guests would wear afternoon or visiting gowns.

One of the biggest appeals of the loose tea gown was that they were so easy to put on, and a lady could dress herself without the help of a lady’s maid. While the structure of tea gowns were simple, though, their design was anything but. Women pulled inspiration from the exotic into their gowns, often aiming to match the design of their parlors. There was also a strong historical influence in many tea gowns. Watteau pleats, the cape/train-like pleats used in 18th century robes a la française, were a popular design element. Some tea gowns would be made to look like two garments, a faux-robe over a dress. As with all fashions of the day, ladies would show of their wealth through their tea gowns, using rich fabrics, lace trims, ruffles, and other embellishments.

As fashion developed, so did the tea gown. By the Edwardian Age, they became difficult to distinguish from other styles of dress. As society changed through the 1920s and 30s, the tea dress slowly faded from popularity, vanishing altogether by World War II. It just goes to show how the life and death of a fashion can all be directly related to shifts in society!

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!