I've been wondering, what is a tea gown?
A tea gown was a dress/robe hybrid worn ONLY in the home or privacy of family and very close friends.They are supposed to be inspired by kimonos and intended to be a more relaxed garment that could be more flowing and even allowed for the wearer to go corset-less,I’m not sure if that was common. They were simple to put on and could be done without the help of a lady’s maid.
“It has always a train and usually long flowing sleeves; is made of rather gorgeous materials and goes on easily, and its chief use is not for wear at the tea-table so much as for dinner alone with one’s family. 29
It can, however, very properly be put on for tea, and if one is dining at home, kept on for dinner. Otherwise a lady is apt to take tea in whatever dress she had on for luncheon, and dress after tea for dinner. 30
One does not go out to dine in a tea-gown except in the house of a member of one’s family or a most intimate friend. One would wear a tea-gown in one’s own house in receiving a guest to whose house one would wear a dinner dress. 31
Your tea-gowns, since they are never worn in public, can literally be as bizarre as you please.” Emily Post, 1922.
The tea gown would be used as we would use a robe to go to our kitchen and eat breakfast before getting ready for the day, or coming home from an event or work and wanting to relax by putting on pjs. Most people wouldn’t wear their pjs out of the house but it is ok to be seen in them by family and friends, same as with the tea gown. To our modern fashion sense they look very fancy but at the time were the last level of undress acceptable to be seen in during an informal, familial gathering.
Met Museum Tea Gown, 1877
Met Museum Tea Gown, 1894
Victoria & Albert Museum Tea Gown, 1900
Victoria & Albert Museum Tea Gown, 1895-1900