Belle Epoche Tea Gown   c. 1905 



Materials: Cream silk chiffon, cream silk satin, embroidered ecru net lace, pink silk ribbon rosebuds, silver sequins, beads and bugle beads. Lining: cream silk twill, ivory silk taffeta, 11 stays, brass hooks and eyes, large steel hooks stamped "Nichols", silk mousseline, bobbin lace, silk ribbon.


Provenance: Tea Gown belonged to Gertrude B.Whittemore, b. Aug 31, 1874; d. Apr 9, 1941. GBW came from a prominent and wealthy Middlebury, Connecticut family. Extensive family documentation written by her great grandnephew, Robert N. Whittemore, will be made available with the sale of this tea gown.


Label: Petersham missing. Because of the superlative quality of materials and construction, I believe this gown came from a early 20th century couture house, possible French; other gowns belonging to GBW had French labels.


Condition: Good for display or collection/study purpose. On a dress form, this gown appears to be near perfect. Damaged areas: The worst problem is large light brown stains under the arms (hidden by the sleeves and lace bodice ruffle); the short mousseline under sleeves are shattered (these could be remade - chiffon and lace outer sleeves in good condition); the interior bust-enhancing taffeta ruffles have shattered near the underarm area (easily removed); there are 4 very small, under 1/8", holes in the skirt's chiffon and two small gray smudges in the back of the skirt. With some careful repairs I feel this gown could be put into excellent condition. The chiffon, satin, lace and trims are in excellent condition as is the entire silk twill lining.


Measurements: B, 33"; W, 26"; Front L, 57"; Back L, 65"; Hem C, 256".


Comments: This trained tea gown captures the Belle Epoche feminine ideal in all her fragile and romantic splendor. The lace used to trim the gown is a hand embroidered copy of 18th century French Alencon lace. Garlands of silk rosebuds cascade down the side of the bodice and are clustered on the sleeves at the inside of the elbow area. Looking at this gown one is reminded of both the opulence and innocence of the wealthy at the beginning of the 20th century.

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