PS Pattern: Antique Tea Gowns

Petite Slimline Tea Gowns

This week’s pattern is Antique Tea Gowns

One of the things I like so much about historical fashions is that it’s pretty hilarious at times.  Tea Gowns were influenced by Asian/Arabian fashions at the time, styles which did not go well with the S-curve silhouette.  A lady wouldn’t leave the home without a corset (the HORROR) so despite being called ‘tea gowns’ they weren’t really made to go out to have tea at a friend’s house in.  They were essentially housedresses, to be worn in the privacy of your own home around close friends and family.

And this made a lot of people super, super mad.  Tea dresses were responsible for the erosion of traditional values.  Really.  Because if you let women go around their own homes wearing clothes that they didn’t need someone else to put them in/take them out of, who knows what kind of sinful things they might get up to. 

Really.

But maybe it isn’t quite so ridiculous?  Clothes you can put on/take off yourself are a kind of independence, something we don’t even think about now.  Imagine needing to have someone else to get your clothes on/off every time you needed to change (for women of means, changing clothes could happen up to 5 times a day!)  Now imagine that after spending most of your life living like that, you suddenly can dress yourself.

This is also the same era of suffragettes (women who wanted to be able to vote), which women in the US didn’t get until 1920.  Let that sink in!  1920!  We haven’t been allowed the rights of full citizens for 100 years yet. 

And what happened after 1920?  Flapper style!  Forget corsets.  Not only can you dress yourself, you can show KNEES.  And SHOULDERS.  IN PUBLIC.  OMG. 

It wasn’t until flapper fashion that tea gowns went out of style, because they weren’t needed as a non-corset alternative anymore.  House dresses and bathrobes became the less formal thing you wore at home over the years.  The legacy of tea gowns and all their ruffly, lacy style went on to influence country western fashion, hippie & boho fashion, and now has hit Japan with mori fashion.  If there is a frock associated with ‘free spirits’ this pretty much it.

Anyway, back to my pattern:  This sort of style is usually most coveted when it looks a bit vintage-y vs freshly made.  You want something that looks like you pulled it out of a linen chest: slightly mellowed, and worn in.  A fresh tea gown is like a fresh pair of jeans, so this pattern also walks you through how to give clothes an instant patina of age by dipping them in some tea. 

Tea staining is a common technique for making things look older than they are, and not just clothes.  You brew extra strong tea, dip in what you want to dye, and you’re done.  You don’t even need to let it soak!  It’s wicked easy and produces pretty cool results:

Tea dyeing

This pattern has been chosen because it works so nicely with tea dyeing, but you can do it to pretty much any outfit you want to antiquify.  It’s like adding a sepia filter to a photograph to give it the vintage look.  This method works with patterns and colors too, but it’s easiest to see the difference with white, which is why I made both of the demo dresses pretty plainly.

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