19th Century, Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Liberty of London Tea Gown

Dear Readers, I apologise that this dress is late.  It is late for the very best of reasons though: yesterday was my Afternoon Tea benefit talk for Save the Children at Premier House.  When that finished at 4, we had to get undressed, I had to grab a bite of dinner, and then at 6 I taught a Beginners Sewing class.  And I just may have been up into the wee smalls finishing things the night before.  Just maybe.

So I’m a little bit tired, and went to bed early, and got up late, so the post is a bit late.

Re: Last weeks 1930s dress on Myrna Loy.  The official rating is a 7.8 out of 10, but I really don’t think the dress deserves it, because most of you were too bored by it to vote (also it had waist ruffles (oops, did I just betray a prejudice!?)).  Those who really love 1930s weighed in, but there was a distinct lack of interest in the comments.  Alas, I have no way to calculate dress-induced ennui, so all I can do is present items which I hope you will find very interesting (though maybe not this interesting), and let the chips fall as they may.

So, because I hope you fill find it interesting, and to keep in-theme, this week’s Rate the Dress is a tea gown.

Tea Gown, Liberty of London, ca. 1885, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tea Gown, Liberty of London, ca. 1885, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tea Gown, Liberty of London, ca. 1885, British, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This Liberty of London example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art demonstrates the classic tea gown elements: historicism, pastels, froth, and a slightly relaxed silhouette.  The daisies scattered across the skirt give a nod to Aestheticism, but the back bustle is pure fashion.  The short sleeves over longer under sleeves references both the favourite tea gown inspiration era: the 18th century, and Liberty’s more usual Medieval influence.

I once showed you another daisy and peach gown, and you weren’t very complementary.  Will this example fare better?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Joan Saunders says

    I give it 8 out of 10. the detailing on the sleeve is very intricate.

  2. Oh my! This is a beautiful dress! Adore the bustle and the gorgeous sleeves. How strange to have the tight short sleeves over the tight long sleeves. I love it though! I like the little baubles(?) on the chiffon ruffle at the neck and wrists. Such a pretty peach as well. The only thing I’m not wild about is the embroidered daisies. Still, I think they are subtle enough not to knock my rating down too much.
    9.5 out of 10

  3. Katy Rose says

    LOVE!!!!! 10/10 I can see nothing that bugs me about it. The sleeve is pretty, it has enough pigeon front but not HUGE; drawn in waist, yet its still relaxed and loose. I think its a great balance between the two elements.

  4. I love this dress and if I was ever brave enough I would love to recreate it. 10 /10 from me!!

  5. Soooooooo preeeetty! Love this dress – the cut, the fabrics, all the fun details. The only thing I am a bit on the fence about it the vertical pleats with the neck ruffle (I actually like the neck ruffle because I think it looks great on the back). And, while I don’t think this color would be something I would wear, I do like the subtle color on this gown.


  6. Love it. If I could, I would make it and I would be happy to change nothing at all. 10/10.

  7. I really like this dress- yet some of the details seem like they just don’t quite come together. The daisy embroidery seems a bit clunky, but with the pale colors I think it blends pretty well. The short tight sleeves over long tight sleeves might fare a bit better if the upper sleeves were a bit shorter- or something…

    The most strange detail seems to be the sheer ruffle at wrist and neck. I don’t like it at all. The neck seems finished off in an unattractive way- and the whole bodice shape is so beautiful that it seems unnecessary. The sheer ruffle at the wrist seem to give the hands a claw-like appearance.

    I LOVE the color. I love the fabric. I love the crafting of the bodice silhouette and especially the bustle detailing. I think overall, I’d rate it a 7.

  8. I can’t really explain why I love this so much, but I do! It is subtle, and not too frilly, and I love the shape. 10!

  9. Elise says

    Granted, I’m biased, and I look terrible in peach, but I’m so envious of those who can wear it because it’s beautiful, and this is a beautiful shade.

    I love the long sleeves with the short. I love the front, and I love the back, but I just don’t thing that the front matches the back very well.

  10. Zach says

    Hrm. I look at it and like it, but then I think, “It looks weird. ” It’s very strange, but I still find it appealing… One moment I want to change something to make it work, but I like each part. I don’t know…

    Eight out of ten. I want to love it completely, but there’s just SOMETHING wrong.

  11. Sorry, I hate it. It looks to me like a cross between a negligee and a bathrobe masquerading as a gown. A 3, and that’s only because I like the waistline detail and the lovely peach color.

    • Well, as Emily Post says “Every one knows that a tea-gown is a hybrid between a wrapper and a ball dress” – and since a wrapper is basically a bath robe/negligee than this dress is doing exactly what it is supposed to! Pity you don’t like the whole idea 😉

  12. I’d give it a9, since I love the style and the details but am not so happy with the colour…

  13. It’s beautiful …. It’s not my favurite era, but I’l give it a 10

  14. 9/10 for me, love the colour though if I wore it I’d look like I’d been buried for a week. I think the colour suits the rather sweet style of the dress without tipping over to sickly sweet.

    • Tenshi says

      Haha, same here – which is a shame, because it really is a very lovely colour. It would make me look like a zombie suffering from consumption, though.
      I love how the overdress looks like a loose robe from the front, but is very fitted in back, that is quite sophisticated. I also like how the neck and wrist ruffles cite 18th century fashion. The only thing I’m not quite sure about are those crossed over ribbons in the back, they just don’t make any sense at all. But that’s a small enough complaint to still rate it as 9/10.

  15. Christine says

    Ooooh! It’s gorgeous, wish we still wore dresses like that nowadays, but perhaps a tad impractical for when you’re pushing a cart around the supermarket!

  16. Sineuve says

    Pretty! And and a very clever mixture of ball dress and bath robe, too! I like how it actually looks like two dresses.
    I imagine it would look very dramatic in a small breeze!
    Also I love the pleating and how the two colors look like sibling peaches.

    I could not wear the color though. I was thinking something along the lines like Rachelle wrote.
    Also the ruffle makes the hands look creepy. Kind of spoils the otherwise perfect dress.

    So, 9.

    • The Mad Purple Chicken says

      Creepy hand ruffles rule! Can you picture it in a darker colour, reaching out of some place shadowy? It would be great for handing out Halloween candy.

  17. *cringes from the theater Peaches and Cream dress*
    I love the color, very soft yet striking. Then the trim is beautiful; provides contrast yet it complements the overall outfit. The skirt, the back bodice and the overdress?: adore them. The sleeves are very elegant.
    But I don’t like the pigeon chested front, it seems to overdo the chest. To me, there’s all this beautiful softness + a bustle then the pigeon chest: too much design effort in one dress.
    The lace on the neckline and wrist needs to go or be replaced.

      • Lol. Nope.
        However thank you for posting a prettier dress than that one.
        Thank you, for the advice on the skirt hems. Now I put facings on my skirts and dresses. They hang much better.
        Are you going to make another Juno type dress in the future?

  18. Daniel says

    It’s beautiful, like the inside of a shell. I do like this – I find it graceful and elegant and refined. I like the effect of a super-late-eighteenth century style overdress over a long sleeved underdress. A very lovely, elegant, ladylike teagown and I even like the ruffled neck (which is very sweet).

    As for the Scaasi. OMG. Oh. My. Goodness. TEN OUT OF TEN!!! The chutzpah and boldness and audacity and the sheer bonkerness of it – wow. Plus, I love when you get a solid mass of something, say, frills or smocking or ruching or flowers or feathers, as part of a design. It’s like a surrealist woman’s costume. I love it, I know many wouldn’t, but the woman who would wear that is a woman I would SPRINT across the room to talk to or even just admire from closer quarters. Brilliant. Sorry, I know it’s not the dress being rated, but I looked and couldn’t resist commenting.

    Oh Yes. The other one. The dress being rated. Sorry. Got distracted. *gets brain off poppies and onto daisies*. 8/10, it’s very lovely but just a tiny bit too retiring and – not wishy-washy, but whats that word Heyer uses a lot – ah yes, unexceptionable! – to REALLY thrill me.

    • Daniel says

      The Scaasi reminds me, YEARS ago when I first found the Internet, I came across a website for a small American museum or private collector who had the most AMAZING 1880s poppy-themed fancy dress costume – a red and white bustle ballgown trimmed with enormous silk poppies. I’d love to see that dress again. It was quite something. I know it was the poster dress for the exhibition I saw the site for, just wish I could remember who owned it.

      • Ooooh…that sounds amazing. It doesn’t ring any bells in my mind, but perhaps someone else will remember it.

    • Haha! Maybe I should post the Scaasi! I’m glad to see that there is someone who would love it! And I’m tickled that you actually followed the link and checked it out. Personally, I actually think it has enormous possibility, but the silhouette is wrong.

  19. I like this – even the colour palette, which is not typically my favourite. But what is going on with the curtain effect of the bodice? From the front it looks like a normal dress with a loose open robe over it – only then you see that the back is fitted, so it’s just the little flap of loose fabric on either side. I do realise it’s a wrapper/tea gown, which is perhaps supposed to wrap, but with the rest of the gown so fitted and tailored this seems incongruous. I really love it all except for that one feature, but I can’t get past that!

    Still, the details are lovely, the colours work well enough to make even me like them, and apart from the flaps/gills/whatever that is I love it, so 8 out of 10 from me.

  20. 9/10. Love the shape and most of the details. Love the x made by the fabric strips on the back! The daisies are a bit big. The color is nice but it seems to be meant for a younger woman. If I rebuilt that dress I’d go for a more matronly color (maybe mauves) and smaller daisies.

  21. OH MY GOD, THIS DRESS IS SO AMAZING – I LOVE IT!! Sorry, I get excited about tea gowns. I’m giving this a 9.5/10 because I think that the double sleeves are slightly less than lovely.

  22. Seamstrix says

    I think it does everything a tea gown is supposed to do. I’m sure the original owner looked just too, too lovely wearing it 😉 I like the color even if it is a bit soft and I like the open robe/fitted back effect. I’d totally copy this. I’m giving it a 9/10 only because I want to reserve 10 for something that totally knocks my socks off and this is just ‘very nice’.

  23. The Mad Purple Chicken says

    It’s pretty, I like it and would wear it if it were a different colour (argh, the computer is telling me that I spelled that wrong, when I didn’t) pale peach is not a colour I particularly like. Also, the X on the back is kind of weird. The daises do look sort of slapped on but you don’t really notice them and the embroidery on the sleeves is awesome. I love the sleeves, especially the lace cuffs, and the collar and front look very nice.
    Overall, I think It’s lovely 9.5/10

    The reason the other peach& daisy gown was so awful is because black and pale pink do NOT go together, either make the entire dress dark or make the entire dress pink and girly, mixing those two styles together never works.
    This one is all pale so it’s good.

  24. Carolyn says

    I like it. The colors make me think of tea and the daisies make it special. 8.5/10

    p.s. I hadn’t discovered your blog yet when you posted the other daisy/peach gown, but I checked it out and I like it.

  25. It reminds me of the classic 80’s rationale for the mullet hair style – “Office at the front, party at the back!” although I feel quite differently about this dress than I do about mullets hehehe.
    I love the back, I love the cross on the back and I love the echo of watteau detailing there. I love its crazy, and I wish it were in emblazoned mediaeval revival colours and not all over peach. But I do love the peach; who cannot love peach silk, it is so like the inside of a shell as Daniel said above. Or a babies’ cheek, so tactile.
    It has just enough different elements brought together and holding to work. That is maximalism in action. So, I am obliged to love it really, by my own principles hehehe.
    And I really do. It is lovely. 10/10 from me too.

  26. I actually really like this! It’s quite sweet!


  27. Hayley says

    OH. MY. LORD. How gorgeous is this?
    I love:
    the capey-gowney effect from the front
    the waist band
    the pigeon breast (can’t believe I said that, I hate pigeon breasts)
    the ruffley neck and wrist detail

    but I hate:
    the colour. I would make an awesome period zombie in this dress, and this is just me being selfish. I wouldn’t look good in it so it gets marked down, lol.
    the sleeves. When I was an undergrad in Dunedin, the coolest fashion trend was to wear a long-sleeved polyprop under a t-shirt. Usually a striped polyprop and a Kathmandu t-shirt. The sleeves here remind me of that. Early 2000s, grungey fashion!

    9/10, just because of the sleeves.

  28. It’s pretty fabulous! I’d give it 10 out of 10. The colors, the fabrics, the shape, the details… It’s pretty wonderful.

  29. Fiona says

    7.5/10 I like the back and the pattern is nice but the colour for me is a little bland.

  30. 7/10. I mostly like it, but I’m just not crazy about those tight sleeves with wrist ruffles. I’m not certain about the neck ruffle either. I like it from the front, but from the back it just seems like a bit much. But then it’s a tea gown – it’s supposed to be opulent and maybe OTT was the look they were going for.

  31. Black Tulip says

    I’m clearly in the minority here, because this dress really isn’t doing it for me, even though I normally love Liberty dresses. I find the colour a bit bland and the sleeves odd, but I think that my main objection (prejudice?) is the shape. This looks to me as though it should be worn with a corset, whereas I always think of tea gowns as loose and flowing.

    When I first saw the Rate the Dress I could vaguely remember a quote about tea dresses, and after much looking through books finally found it. ‘”In a teagown one feels less pursed up”, she would explain. She would become petulant when the time came for the maid to squeeze her into her tight dress.’

    While hunting for the quote I found a reference to a Liberty silk tea gown purchased by Andrew Carnegie as a gift for his wife to celebrate her recovery from typhoid fever, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I wonder if it’s the same one?

    5/10. Some pretty elements, but an impostor as a teagown

Comments are closed.