Edwardian Ladies’ Outdoor Tea Party, Walton-le-Dale, ca. 1905

A summertime tea is a vintage themed event that you can enjoy recreating for all decades. The vintage tea gown’s heyday was centered in the Edwardian era (1900-1920), when white lace dresses posed beautifully against a luscious green garden. The enormous flower-covered picture hats were also perfectly suited for an outdoor tea.

Starting in 1870, women adopted a newer, lighter, free fitting form of house dress worn at the time of afternoon tea, roughly 3 to 6pm. It was a formal house dress gown suitable for entertaining guests in one’s home. It need not be as formal as a dinner gown, but was formal enough to be seen among one’s peers. It was often an expression of a woman’s artistic abilities where the dress coordinated with her parlor room decor.

By the Edwardian era, tea gowns were a regular part of a woman’s wardrobe outside of her home, too. Tea time became more flexible as well, as the location changed to outside porches and gardens. The sexual overtones vanished as these dresses became part of everyday summer fashions of the teens and early 1920s. Nearly all Edwardian tea gowns were white eyelet, embroidery, or lace inset sheer gowns. During fall and winter, darker color gowns were worn.

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