In the late Victorian era, a tea gown was primarily an at home garment. It was what an upper class lady would wear while she was at home resting between visiting friends in the morning, and before dressing for dinner in the evening. Fancy loungewear, if you will.
In this context, the best place to photograph my tea gown would have been the parlor of a 120 year old house. Unfortunately, I did not have one of those readily available for my photographic needs. So, after considering my options, I decided a local replica 19th century schoolhouse would suffice for my photo shoot. After all, this gown was inspired by Professor McGonagall, a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Thus, lacking a 19th century mansion, I decided to do a Minerva McGonagall photoshoot, and the school house felt fitting. (English castle ruins were also in short supply.)
Photography location explained, let's get on to the good stuff! How does one actually wear a tea gown (that doubles as a Hogwarts teacher costume)? All one piece, my tea gown slips easily over my head. I wear it over my standard 1890's undergarment - a combination corset, corset cover, and 3 petticoats. Now, as tea gowns were loungewear, there is some debate whether or not they were worn with corsets. After all, it is easier to lounge without a corset on! Personally, I have decided to wear my corset under my tea gown as I like the 19th century silhouette it gives. However, I also made the tea gown easy to adjust if I ever chose to wear it without a corset.
The tea gown settles at my hips, like a skirt, then I pull on the sleeves.
Once the sleeves are on my arms, I fasten the twill tape waist stay around my waist.
Next, the bodice is fastened. As tea gowns are meant to be easily put on and taken off in the middle of the day, all my fastenings are on the front and I can easily do them up myself.
First, the bodice underlap is fastened in place with a hook and bar. Then the bodice overlap is fastened in place, also with a hook and bar.
And with that, the tea gown is securely on and all that's left to do is smooth the front "over dress" in place.
The front "overdress" hides the skirt placket and the side seam pockets, because every good dress has pockets!
Pockets, they are the perfect place for concealing things,
Such as wands. Every set of wizards robes must have a wand pocket after all!
And with that, I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, ready to teach young witches and wizards how to transfigure things!
Let's pretend for a moment, shall we, that the beautiful gardens surrounding the school house are the grounds of Hogwarts Castle?
Let's set off exploring, beautiful silken trains trailing behind.
Honestly, the back of the tea gown my be my very favorite part of it.
Originally, I'd planned for the back to be all one fabric, no center back contrast, just like the original. However, I didn't have enough silk jacquard for that to work. So, I took a hint from this 1880's tea gown and made the train, flowing down from the waist, from black silk satin.
And I absolutely love the result! It definitely turned out better, or at least more interesting, than my original plan would have!
It's the layers and different texture that make this tea gown so much fun!
The green, and the black. . .
The streaked satin, and the jacquard. . .
The velvet ruffles. . .
The bodice pleating. . .
The front layers. . .
The sleeve dimensions. . .
And the back train.
All together it makes one perfectly fun, fabulous, and magically inspired tea gown.
Perfect for wearing while instructing stone statues to defend Hogwarts;
Or relaxing in a garden like an 1890's lady of leisure.
I now have a beautiful gown that works for both activities!
What more could I ask for?
If you have not followed along with my 1890's tea gown making journey so far and want to catch up, check out the links bellow!
You can find out how I got the inspiration here.
Check out the tea gown I decided to copy here.
See how I made the pattern here.
Read the struggles I ran into mocking it up and cutting it out here.
And observe how it all came together here.
A huge thank-you to my friend Bretta for taking all the amazing pictures for me!
Now, what costume should I start on next??