Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: a tea gown for the teens

Tea Gown, 1910—15, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3093

Last week’s spun sugar confection of a frock was as popular as a pavlova (aka, almost everyone was delighted by it, but a small percentage thought it was revoltingly sweet).

I did think of choosing an 18th century purple garment for this week’s Rate the Dress, but none of the available options seemed like a good pick.  Instead I went for something that’s been on my RTD options list for a while: a 1910s tea gown.

Last Week:  an 1810s dress with spotted lace and scalloped trim

Similarly to the week before, ratings on last week fell solidly into a large cluster of extremely positive 8-10 ratings, with a small smattering of people who really weren’t keen on the dress.

The Total: 8.7 out of 10

A similar rating pattern to last week, but a better result!

This week: a 1910s take on the tea gown

I feature tea gowns on Rate the Dress so often I feel like I have to ration them!  I can’t help it: they are such interesting garments that they make perfect options for rating.  Tea gowns, by their nature, get to play with the styles of their era.

As personal garments for an intimate setting, they didn’t have to fit any rules of convention, or please anyone but the wearer.  As luxury garments they aren’t bound by practicality or budget.  The combination of these two means they are often uniquely inventive.

This particular tea gown is an excellent example of that.  It’s  enough of its time to be recognisable and datable to within a few years (although the museum is conservative in its 1910-15 estimate, I’m quite confident in dating it to 1913-15), but also has a distinctive voice all its own.

Tea Gown, 1910—15, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3093

Tea Gown, 1910—15, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3093

One of the things I like about this tea gown is that it looks like it would actually be very comfortable to wear.  It’s also not made for a particularly small woman: note the waist size in comparison to the overall length.

This tea gown has probably suffered slightly with age: the tulle underlayers appear to have yellowed significantly over time, giving a strange cast to the sheer violet chiffon of the front bodice and upper skirt.

Tea Gown, 1910—15, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3093

Tea Gown, 1910—15, French, silk, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.300.3093

As always, try to overlook the changes of time, and imagine the garment as it was.

What do you think of this one?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating — feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

As usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment.


  1. For the lightness of the fabrics, the garment gives a heavy impression to me, although the back view is more graceful.

    7 of 10

  2. Pal K says

    I would like to think there is fading that affects the color. It looks like the purple might have actually been a purple and gold iridescence
    I don’t like the hemline…I don’t like bubble hemlines on modern fashion or on vintage fashion…
    That being said I do like the drapiness from the front and the way the shoulder seam (with pleating) falls onto the back
    It seems like it would be secret pyjamas…


  3. nofixedstars says

    yes, please. tea gowns forever! i would very happily glide around my house, or entertain friends informally, in tea gowns, any day. this one is pretty, and from my favourite era. i like the colour combo and the fabric choices, and i like the waist treatment, and the graceful folds of sleeves/back/skirt.

    i’m subtracting a single point because i don’t think the front over-tunic was especially well-handled. the straight hem across the drapey underskirt looks too abrupt, and because there are other exemplars of its type and time that outshine it to my eye. but i’d wear this…oh yeah.

    rating: 9/10

  4. HelenG says

    This dress looks very elegant and swishy. I do love a good swishy dress and that why I’m giving it 9/10. I’m taking off just one point because I’m not totally in love with the colour combination.

  5. The gown looks awfully wide, but still graceful, and indeed comfortable. I wish I had a better idea of how the colors might have appeared when it was new, because the bodice portion appears to be hideously drab now, but I will assume, based on Leimomi’s comment about the yellowing of the underlayers, that the bodice area was not a hideously drab gray.

    8 out of 10.

  6. Penny says

    I love it. I even don’t mind the aged yellow undertone, it gives it Miss Haversham vibes. Would love to swan around an elegant mansion in it. 10/10

  7. It’s lovely!! A sigh! So elegant and draped and gorgeous. I love the colours it is even though they are a bit faded for sure.
    I would love to swan around my salon in Bloomsbury with all the arty crowd in this.

  8. Kathy Hanyok says

    Not a fan. Even though I like the drape of it, it looks like something you’d have to fuss with to keep it straight on your body. Too uncomfortable for me. 5/10

  9. Izzy says

    I really like the shape, and the sash and the flower in front, but there’s something about the fabric or the color in the front that puts me off just a little. 7.5/10

  10. Marjo Wheat says

    I love it! I particularly enjoy the draping of the back. I love that it looks comfortable to wear and so feminine. I could swish around in it! 10/10.

  11. It certainly looks comfortable. And of it’s time. I like the color but don’t really care for the silhouette… but I am really intrigued by the interesting patterning of it. I’m struggling to envision what the pattern piece for the back looks like laid out flat. For that intriguing bit, I raise my rating. I think I’ll give it 9/10.


  12. Lucy says

    I appreciate the draping, but I’m not thrilled by the way the skirt/cape bunches up at the sides.

  13. This looks so comfy! Almost like a stylish wearable blanket… I love the drapery and the colors (even as faded/yellowed as those layers are). Although the straight edge of the overtunic on the front is a bit jarring to my modern eye, it does fit the time period, especially when compared to pantaloon-type evening dress that had the mix of curves and straight. I really want to make something like this now (with personal touches of my own) – thanks for sharing it!


  14. Emma Louise says

    I like this one, to me it looks like the perfect dress for an eccentric posh lady to wear to a seance and sweep about dramatically in. I like the drapes and I’m sure the colours used to look better and the flowers more perky. I’m just not sure about the straight horizontal line across the skirt, I want it to somehow be round or drapey or just not there.

    • Julia says

      Your comment gave me an immediate picture in my mind. I think she’s wearing some kind of turban too probably.

  15. Lisa says

    I wholly agree with the other doubts about the horizontal line of the front overskirt, but otherwise I love it. I think the draped shaping of the lower skirt creates a more vertical, and therefore slimming, look than a straight, floor-length hem would. I imagine it would be very flattering on the person for whom it was made. And the back is divine. 9/10

  16. Emma says

    I think I would have liked the colours when they were new but that’s about all I like. I really dislike the hemline and something about the shape of the sleeves makes me think that they would be uncomfortable to wear.

  17. Julia says

    I think this is a very interesting garment. It’s pretty and comfy looking. I particularly like the side draping on the skirt.
    That said I have a hard time appreciating the style of this era. I find it a little dumpy looking sometimes.
    I am curious what color the yellow would have been before. Cream? Softer yellow? Even as is, I think it works.
    Objectively I’d give it an ight and personally maybe a five or six. Let’s go with a final rating of 8.

  18. Carol says

    It’s a Kaftan! But a particularly interesting one. I kept trying to figure out the pattern and finally realized that it’s a Kaftan with the front belt going through the garment at each side to tie on the inside at the back. Now I just have to figure out how the bottom is hemmed/shaped to create the lovely drapey swoops on the side. Elegant, artistic and as comfortable as a bathrobe. But, yeah, that straight bit looks like an apron which brings it down a point for me as well.

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