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  • Writer's pictureLinda Jane Holmes

Why the Tea Gown was Revolutionary | Baroness Bolsover

Updated: Apr 12

The Curse of the Corset

For centuries women had been forced into tight restrictive corsets to create an unnaturally spelt waistline, all in the name of 'fashion'.

It's no surprise these ‘shape-enhancing’ garments are now widely recognised as being the cause of many a terrible affliction from kidney ailments to hysteria.

“Is there any wonder we were hysterical, we could hardly breath!”

The Victorian Baroness Bolsover recalls corsets were required to be worn with all outfits, even at very informal Afternoon Tea gatherings with one's friends.

“Thank goodness the sandwiches and cakes were served in tiny portions, there was no room for over-indulgence, even if one wanted.”

Afternoon Tea Discomfort

It was quite the norm at Afternoon Teas, made 'fashionable' by Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, for ladies to sit and take tea at very low tables.

“I recall it being most uncomfortable, leaning forwards and backwards to reach out for a Garibaldi! "

Corsets could restrict the flow of digestive juices, resulting in a bloated tummy adding more pressure to an already tight garment. And nobody wants the embarrassment of a grumbling tummy, or worse still, trapped wind!

The Road to Liberation

By the second half of the 19th century however, freedom was in sight with the ever-increasing popularity of the Tea Gown.

A much lighter, floatier dress, worn only in the house and therefore by the hostess of a Tea Party, this garment was truly life changing. The reason? With the Tea Gown, and ONLY with the Tea Gown, a lady was not required to wear a corset. Can you imagine?

“No wonder we were all clamouring to be the Hostess of our own tea parties!”

Tea gowns were often simple in design, perhaps with a wrapper fastening, but usually with a few embellishments, such as frills, tassels and maybe a small train. Likenesses to a Japanese kimono were often seen.

Over the years the concept of the Tea Gown has changed into what we now refer to as a Dressing Gown. Though not as glamourous perhaps, the principal remains the same, it's a comfortable gown to wear in one’s home and I would just like to stress, the ‘at home’ bit.

A New Gown for the Baroness

With the help of expert costume makers Emma Waugh and Liz Coleman, a new version of Baroness Bolsover's favourite tea gown has been created.

The above French fashion plate of the late 1800's, on which the new tea gown is based, would have been truly transformational. No waistline, no corset!

“A Lady must feel utterly comfortable as well as elegant..."

And that's largely down to the cut of the dress. Liz's beautifully constructed 'waterfall' feature cascades gently down the front of the new dress, with a full length 'A' line and soft pleats to add seamless movement and style. The style is not dissimilar to the popular 'empress line' seen in Georgian ladies fashion.

Along with Emma's simply stunning hand sewn headdress and pearl necklace the new outfit is both stylish and comfortable and has the WOW factor fit for the most splendid Afternoon Tea Party... a most definite DRESS TO IMPRESS!


Afternoon Tea Etiquette

Join the Victorian Baroness and learn how to become the crème de la crème of the Tea Party with her Ladyship's irresistiblyinteractive Afternoon Tea Talk.

Perfect for Afternoon Tea Venues, Events, Hotels, Special Occasions, Group & Zoom presentations

Call 07930 258 399


Town Tours with Afternoon Tea

Join the Baroness in the summer months for a truly unforgettable stroll through the historic streets of Bolsover Town, followed by a simply splendid Afternoon Tea...


Baroness Bolsover's Tea Gown in the Making

From design to completion.

Thank you so much to Emma and Liz for making this happen.


Want to know more about Baroness Bolsover?

I'd love to hear from you...

07930 258 399

1 Comment

Jan 07, 2022

Many thanks to the Baroness for hosting our Golden Wedding Celebrations at Ringwood Hall…

It was a day to remember! Elegant with perfect surroundings but also light hearted and fun!

It was such a treat for our party of thirty people (the ruling at the time) to be welcomed and entertained as Lords and Ladies for the afternoon.

We were taught the etiquette with much humour and then entertained during our event which eventually spilled outside into the beautiful gardens.

We had struggled with the constraints of the Pandemic and did not know how we could celebrate our special day….

The Baroness was perfect in every way, her hosting skills and performance were totally professional.

We were brought out of…

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