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.” 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.”
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.”
A combination of plain and figured silk and satin in shades of olive green formed the elaborate ladies’ tea jacket to the left. The jacket fronts are “reversed in large jabot revers” and open all the way down the front. At the back of the jacket, a square yoke spreads in Watteau style, and the jacket’s edges are 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 is full and “droops slightly over a deep, smooth girdle,” sports a standing collar and is trimmed with insertion to match the waist and cuffs. Full Paquin style sleeves are “completed with deep, upturning cuffs that flare in points at the back of the arm” and also have Bruges lace hanging from the wrist.
The tea jacket to the right was one of the tea jackets said to be of “fanciful design” from 1896. It is fashioned from “old-rose and very pale green China silk.” The back of the jacket has a square yolk and the front opens in jacket fashion over a full vest and rolls back in jabot revers, which is faced with green silk. The vest has 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.
The tea jacket to the left has a full vest and a deep, pointed collar, with features that were said to be “attractive.” This particular 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 also to trim the bottom and edges of the collar’s two sections. Lace beading covers the standing collar, and the sleeves are gathered and trimmed similarly to the collar and jabot. Black ribbon is also used to trim the full gathered sleeves and tied into a bow above the insertion.
To the right, is a similar looking tea jacket to the one above. It is made from light blue flannel and has underarm and side gores. It also has a center seam that renders the jacket close-fitting and creates large flutes in the skirt, as shown in the back view. The front opens over a full vest that is much shorter than the jacket and the vest is gathered at the waist by a ribbon inserted in the casing. Additionally, a ribbon bow is tacked at the neck of the vest.The jacket has a fancy collar that is separated with points at the front, back, and shoulders, and ribbon-run beading covers the narrow standing collar. The wrist of the sleeves and all edges, including the bottom of the sleeves, are trimmed with frills of lace.
The tea jacket to the left has “a deep sailor-collar and elbow puff sleeves [that] enhance the dressiness.” To create this tea jacket light blue-and-gold glace taffeta were used. The front is full with ripples at the back that fall below the waistline. The sailor collar’s ends meet just above the bust line and are covered with Venise lace and a blue moire taffeta ribbon rosette is tacked at the ends of the collar in the center. A full ruche of lace is also used to create a standing collar that, according to The Delineator, “would prove unusually becoming to long, slender necks.” A lace frill is attached at the edges to lengthen both the garment and the sleeves, “and a ribbon bowed at the back of the arm … hold[s] the fulness [sic] in place.”
The last tea jacket has “a floral design in a tasteful blending of pink, green and yellow … united with plain stem-green taffeta.” The back has a pointed yoke and the full front is shirred and held by a plain silk ribbon at the waist-line. The jacket fronts are turned back in revers and faced with plain silk. Lierre lace is attached around the front’s edges to match the revers. A ribbon draw-string regulates the fullness of the sleeve, and it is tied at the wrist with a bow, which is placed inside the arm, and creates a portion of fabric that falls below in frill-like fashion over the hand.
- Arthur’s Home Magazine, Vol. 61, 1891
- “Tea-Jackets and Matinées,” The Delineator, December 1896