The Comfort of the Tea-gown or Rest Robe - An Opportunity for Individual Choice of Designs Easy Fastenings the Essential Point - A Corset-belt - A Neutral Scheme of Nun-like Grey - Materials of which to Make the Tea-gown - Period or National Costumes - Points to Remember
The main and absolutely essential element the tea-gown must possess is comfort. It is a garment unworthy the name if it be ugly, but if it lack the acme of ease it is simply no tea-gown at all. Yet it need not, and should not, look sloppy.
Many people, among them are Royalties, give the charming frock the title of rest-gown, and that, at its best, it most certainly is, and to such an end was planned.
It is an English invention, and shares with the tailor-made costume that distinction, proving that our designers understand not only the requirements of women for their hours of strenuous sport, but also what they need when the moment of leisure arrives.
It is futile to lay down the law to the extent of sketching dictatorially a tea-gown scheme for all to admire. There are tastes and tastes, and it is because each individual can with perfect propriety consult her own diosyncrasies and make, or cause her tea-gown to be carried out in deference to them, that another virtue is added to that most delightful of garments.
One woman, weary of the intricacies of the modern everyday toilette, sought her dressmaker, and asked her to design for her a tea-gown with one fastening only ! In due course the dress appeared - a perfect success - capable of being slipped on with the utmost ease, and fastened with just the single hook and eye prescribed at one side of the waist, holding the draperies of the corsage and the hidden placket-hole of the skirt in its grip.
It was a velvet frock, with a frill of old lace at the neck, and ruffles to match at the wrists. Its owner wore with it interesting jewellery that looked as if it had a history - one night an Etruscan charm and pendant and a clasp to match (above the steadfast hook), and on another a set of "lump" turquoises, comprising a belt of the gems in a barbaric gold framework, a mascot on a slender chain, and earrings composed of the turquoise in its matrix form. Old lace has just been mentioned as a tea-gown embellishment, and it will have been noticed that the use of it was suggested with restraint. The reason is obvious. Precious lace is not for the tea-gown of ordinary life, except in a very modified form. It would be a desecration to use it upon a robe in which to garb oneself for restful hours upon the sofa, or even to decorate the tea-gown that is worn as a dinner frock in the intimacy of home life. Lace such as this should play a regal part upon the full-dress evening toilette of ceremony.
But odds and ends of real lace beautify a tea-gown as no other decoration will, and if there is an old-fashioned lace coat it may be relied upon, with a few clever alterations, to add diversity to a tea-gown scheme.
Many women have in their possession lace-edged handkerchiefs for which they have no use ; if they were to arrange them in flots, or take the corners to make lapels and cuff embellishments, the handkerchiefs would be serving a good purpose instead of lying by in a drawer to deteriorate.
The choice of a tea-gown material should be made carefully, because this type of dress is not one that is renewed often in the average wardrobe. A woman gets fond of her tea-gown, and likes to wear it the winter through, keeping it as a stand-by after its first freshness has departed for solitary evenings, or for rest hours in the retirement of her bedroom. It is worth while, therefore, to buy a good fabric, but not one that will become wearisome to the eye by reason of its colour or its pattern.
There is great wisdom in a certain smart woman's plan for having, at any rate, one tea-gown in her wardrobe, made of grey crepe-de-chine, with black Chantilly lace trimmings, bands of silver lace insertion, and a chemisette to match. With this she can wear a sash girdle of any colour that suits her fancy, with a bandeau for her hair, also jewels of various tints and types, to add splashes of brilliancy to the nun-like scheme.
Woollen batiste, which is clinging and cosy, is an excellent material to use for a tea-gown lining in the winter, and cleverly inserted upon the waist-line should be a corset-band, by the aid of which the wearer of the gown will be enabled to discard her stays when she desires so to do.
A potent reason of the success the rest-gown has gained amongst women is that the corset can be abandoned. When it is worn, it will be found, nevertheless, not only becoming to the appearance, but a real comfort to have the corset-belt just mentioned. It is the kind of belt that the best tailors provide with their corselet skirts, and while it does not constrict the waist, it prevents the pressure of the tea-gown from being felt, and adds symmetry to the figure. Cashmere-de-soie makes a delightful tea-gown, and one that will wear right well. The ordinary cashmere, which costs about two shillings a yard, is an excellent stand-by, and can be purchased in every new and pretty colour.
A velvet frock with a frill of old lace at the neck and ruffles to the sleeves. Fastened with a single hook and eye at one side of the waist, it is quickly donned. Barbaric jewellery may be worn with a gown of this description
More ethereal gowns for warm weather wear the thin silks will provide, as well as crepe-de-chine. In satin a woman has an enormous choice, for the wool-backed type can be used in the winter, and the thinner variety in the summer.
To exhaust the list of materials suitable for the purpose would demand a large area of precious printing space. Suffice it to say, then, that every fabric suitable for the day or evening toilette, with the exception of those used for cloth tailor-mades, is available for the purpose, from the simple delaine to the luxurious brocade. But a line of demarcation should be drawn between the material ordered for the tea-gown and that required for the dressing-gown, unless the tea-gown is to serve the purpose of a rest-robe only, and never appear before the public eye in the dining or drawing room.
A tea-gown that can be worn as a dinner frock in the intimacy of home life is a most useful possession. The above could be made of grey crepe-de-chine, with sleeves and trimmings of black Chantilly lace. Bands of silver insertion, and a sash girdle of any preferred colour should be added.
Those delightful fabrics, zenana cloth, ripple cloth, molleton, lambswool, and the large family of flannels, also the quilted and wadded satins and silks, should be jealously guarded for the purpose of manipulating the dressing-gown proper, leaving the very large range of materials that remain for the manifestation of the tea-gown.
But there are more interesting possibilities still to suggest respecting the toilette under consideration. In no other detail of dress can a woman assert her individuality, or indulge her love of invention more easily or more legitimately,than in the design she chooses for her tea-gown. She can herself contribute the idea for an artistic scheme ; can re-veal her own spirit, as it were, in what she wears. She can perpetuate the fashions of old times, can materialise the moonlight and the sunlight, and, in short, invest her gown with the romance which is lacking in her other toilettes.
Say she is fond of old styles, all she has to do is to visit the National Gallery, or some other great collection of paintings, and pick out for herself the particular "school" of dress that she most admires. She can appear as a lady of the Court of Charles I.; can represent the salient features of the Elizabethan period; can be a mediaeval princess of historical renown, can be French, Italian, Hungarian, Swiss, or Scandinavian, according to her fancy.
Numbers of women amuse themselves by designing their own tea-gowns, using for the purpose of their materialisation stuffs they have brought from abroad, from India, Egypt, the Mediterranean, Japan, China, and so forth. Some actually weave their own materials, a very domesticated and delightful pastime.
Two of the loveliest tea-gowns I have ever seen were made of Chinese and Japanese stuffs, superbly embroidered ; and when their wearers had dressed their hair after the manner of the countries from whence their tea-gowns came, and had adorned themselves with jewels en suite, the effect produced was charming.
Swiss and Scandinavian tea-gowns will be echoes of the peasant dresses of those lands, and the flowing robes of Egypt represented in fabrics from the country of the Pharaohs make very restful and imposing habiliments.
Every little detail must be thought out when the place or picture tea-gown is being constructed. Not only must the trimmings of the gown be in keeping with the fabrics and styles thereof, but the feet must be shod suitably, and the hair must be dressed with some hint of reciprocity to the design.
Collecting inexpensive ornaments to decorate the tea-gown toilette forms one of many shopping amusements the traveller to foreign parts may enjoy. From Egypt she will bring strange scarabs and beads, and from Venice the spoils of the necklace dealers to add to her store of interesting possessions.
Then, when the tea-gown is on, the mind can be given a rest by picturing the places in which the materials and jewels were bought. Happy hours holiday-making can be brought back and lived over again, and the fret and worry of ordinary existence will be forgotten in the meditations that will soothe the wearer of the robe.
Points to Remember:
The tea-gown must be comfortable.
The tea-gown must not be sloppy-looking.
It may be a copy of an old picture frock, or may resemble the national dresses of foreign parts.