Tea Jackets and Their Popularity in 1896

By 1891, tea jackets were well-established. They were worn to the theater, at home for dinner, and, of course, when pouring afternoon tea. One person noted tea jackets were “preferred to the long, elaborate tea-gown, which, if of rich material, runs into a considerable sum, and does not retain its beauty and freshness like the smaller tea jacket.”[1] The fashion magazine, The Delineator agreed. They maintained “no woman can remain insensible to the charm of the fluffy neglige jackets, which when fancifully designed are worn while pouring tea of afternoon guests and when simply fashioned are put on to promote the wearer’s comfort.”[2]

1896 Tea Gown, Author's Collection

1896 Tea-gown. Author’s collection.

Besides being fashionable and comfortable, tea jackets offered other advantages. For instance, “short lengths of handsome material either fancy or plain, [could] … be used up in a variety of styles for tea jackets, and trimming which have already done duty or [were] … too bright for out-door wear … [were not] too bright or showy for the tea jacket.”[3] Brides also loved them and ordered several for their trousseau and many women thought tea jackets as being more dressy than blouses.

A combination of plain and figured silk and satin in shades of olive green formed the elaborate ladies’ tea jacket below. The jacket fronts were rolled back in jabot reverse and ‘faced with … green silk.”[4] They opened all the way down and at the back of the jacket, a square yoke was spread in Watteau style. The jacket’s edges were trimmed with Bruges lace, which was a bobbin lace first created in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that offered a scrolling pattern.The vest, which was full drooped “slightly over a deep, smooth girdle.”[5] It also sported a standing collar and was trimmed with insertion to match the waist and cuffs. Full Paquin style sleeves, with Bruges lace hanging from the wrist, were completed with deep, upturning cuffs that flare in points at the back of the arm.

Tea Jackets: Ladies Tea Jacket

Ladies tea jacket. Author’s collection.

The next tea jacket below was one of the tea jackets said to be of “fanciful design” from 1896. It was fashioned from “old-rose and very pale green China silk.”[6] The back of the jacket had a square yolk and the front opened in jacket fashion over a full vest and rolled back in jabot revers, which was faced with green silk. The vest sported a standing collar, and narrow pointed “Venise” lace is placed along the edge as trimming. The “Paquin” sleeves have cuffs edged in lace and trimmed at the back with ribbon rosettes. Flowered and plain taffeta could also be combined to create the jacket.

Tea Jackets, Author's Collection

Tea jacket. Author’s collection.

The tea jacket below has a full vest and a deep, pointed collar, with features that were said to be “attractive.” This garment was made from white Liberty satin and apple-green taffeta. The back sported ripples and the front opened to expose a full vest, which was drawn at the bottom with a ribbon and tied in a bow to close. Creme lierre insertion was used to frill the edges of the jabot and trim the bottom and edges of the collar’s two sections. Lace beading covered the standing collar, and the sleeves were gathered and trimmed similarly to the collar and jabot. Black ribbon was also used to trim the full gathered sleeves and tied into a bow above the insertion.

Tea jacket. Author’s collection.

Below is a similar looking tea jacket to the one above. It was made from light blue flannel with underarm and side gores. A center seam was said to render the jacket close-fitting and created large flutes in the skirt, as shown in the back view. The front opened over a full vest that was much shorter than the jacket and the vest was gathered at the waist by a ribbon inserted in the casing. Additionally, a ribbon bow was tacked at the neck of the vest. A fancy collar separated with points at the front, back, and shoulders, and ribbon-run beading covered the narrow standing collar. The wrist of the sleeves and all edges, including the bottom of the sleeves, were trimmed with frills of lace.

Ladies Tea Jackets, Front and Back, Author's Collection

Ladies tea jacket, front and back. Author’s collection.

The next tea jacket below had “a deep sailor-collar and elbow puff sleeves [that] enhance the dressiness.”[7] To create this tea jacket light blue-and-gold glace taffeta were used. The front was full and there were ripples at the back that fell below the waistline. The sailor collar’s ends also met just above the bust line and were covered with Venise lace and a blue moire taffeta ribbon rosette tacked at the ends of the collar in the center. A full ruche of lace was used to create a standing collar that, according to The Delineator, “would prove unusually becoming to long, slender necks.”[8] A lace frill was attached at the edges to lengthen both the garment and the sleeves, “and a ribbon bowed at the back of the arm … [held] the fulness [sic] in place.”[9]

Tea Jacket

Tea jacket. Author’s collection.

The last tea jacket had “a floral design in a tasteful blending of pink, green and yellow … united with plain stem-green taffeta.”[10] The back had a pointed yoke and the full front was shirred and held by a plain silk ribbon at the waist-line. The jacket fronts were turned back in revers and faced with plain silk. Lierre lace was attached around the front’s edges to match the revers. A ribbon draw-string regulated the fullness of the sleeve and was tied at the wrist with a bow, which was placed inside the arm, and created a portion of fabric that fell below in frill-like fashion over the hand.

tea jacket

Tea jacket. Author’s collection.


  • [1] Arthur’s Home Magazine, Vol. 61, 1891, p. 654-655.
  • [2] “Tea-Jackets and Matinées,” The Delineator, December 1896, p. 747.
  • [3] Arthur’s Home Magazine, Vol. 61, 1891, p. 655.
  • [4] “Tea-Jackets and Matinées,” p. 747.
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Ibid., p. 748.
  • [8] Ibid.
  • [9] Ibid.
  • [10] Ibid.

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