The History of Tea Attire

Hello again,

Today we are going to be talking about the history of tea attire. Yes, just as afternoon tea has a history, so does the dressing attire.

Part of the reason that tea dresses became so popular is that they were easy to put on. This was coming out of an era when Ladies had to dress for different times of day. There was morning attire, afternoon attire, evening attire, and everything else in-between.  With all of these changes of attire, a maid usually helped.

However, with the intervention of tea dresses, ladies finally could dress themselves without assistance .  They were made with loose material and there was no need to wear a corset.   As written in detail  by the Dreamstress, “A tea dress….. is a hybrid between a wrapper and a ball dress (Dreamstress, para. 4).  Thus,  these dresses were to be only worn in the afternoon when no visiters were present and no formal dinner parties occurred. Only family and intimate relations could see a lady wearing a tea dress. According to the Vintage Dancer, these dresses were usually worn between the hours of 3-6pm (Vintage dancer, para. 3).

It wasn’t until the Edwardian time that tea dresses started coming out as appriate wear for outside the home. However, there was a lot of controversy.  More conservative ladies thought it was unappriate and  outrageous that a woman would not wear a corset out in public. The only time a lady would not be wearing a corset would be in the early hours of the evening, preferably the hours  right before bed.  Therefore, not wearing a corset would mean a lady would be in her underclothes or dressing gown. So, in a sense, it was understandable that there was so much controversy.

In the end though, as fashion progressed, the tea dress also went though many alterations to what is now, a mid-calf  length dress that is flowy, and can be either plain or patterned.

I hope you enjoyed this brief fashion history. In future blogs coming up for spring and summer, I will be giving detailed outfit guides, so stay tuned!

Sources cited and for further information:

Debbie, and Oscar. “Victorian Edwardian Tea Dress and Gown Guide.”,, 24 May 2016,

Oakes, Leimomi. “Terminology: What Is a Tea Gown?” The Dreamstress, 14 June 2012,