Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dress For An Afternoon Tea

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

A lesson in the dress for the era 1901 - 1915 for a special occasion. It's always good to know the proper dress required of the time period in which our ancestors lived. It just may help us date those old photographs. Ah, the rules. Come visit 1915 for afternoon tea.

Chapter 11 - Receptions
Encyclopedia of Etiquette
By Emily Holt
1901 - 1915

The afternoon tea, or ceremonies at home, has for some years enjoyed a popularity that shows no signs of waning and has all but done away with the once almost universal evening reception.

Such teas are given throughout the winter season to introduce young ladies to society, to honor special guests, to give a young married couple an opportunity to meet their friends and to enable a hostess in a single afternoon successfully to entertain the whole list of her visiting acquaintances.

They are the least expensive and the least exacting functions in the list of social diversions and, considering the many good purposes they serve, the most useful and satisfactory.

Dress for an Afternoon Reception

The hostess at an afternoon tea wears a high-necked or moderately dècolletè gown of handsome material, elaborately trimmed, trained and set off with jewels. The women guests follow suit, and though a tailor-made or handsome morning dress may be worn to a reception, the fashion is now in favor of elegant slightly low-necked gowns of rich colors, fancifully decorated and worn with becoming afternoon hats, white or very light-toned gloves and dress shoes.

For a dèbutante and her assistants white or very light-tinted gowns are requisite, cut quite low in the neck. While the hostess, her daughters, and those ladies who pour tea for her, appear with heads bare and hair elaborately dressed, the women guests do not lay aside their hats or veils, or remove their gloves. Wraps, however, are put off in the dressing-room.

Don't forget to curl that little finger.

For an evening reception, the hostess wears a white, gray, black, or colored gown of silk, satin, lace or velvet, short in the sleeves and dècolletè at the neck, with a long train. Handsome jewels and an elaborate coiffure add to her appearance. All women guests imitate the hostess's example, wearing what is best known as elegant dinner gowns, with jewels, light or white gloves, slippers, and their hair elaborately dressed.

The host and all masculine guests at an afternoon reception in the fall or winter wear double- or single-breasted frock coats of black or very dark gray vicuna or soft cheviot, and double- or single-breasted waistcoats to match, or of fancy cloth. Trousers of gray, as a rule, look best; and with white linen, a broad folding tie of a light-colored silk, a top hat, gray gloves and patent-leather shoes, the reception costume is complete.

In the dressing-room or hall men lay aside their hats, overcoats and, if they wish, their walking sticks, and either take off but one glove, or take off both and carry them in one hand. Whatever course is followed, the right hand, bare of its glove, must be offered to the hostess.

For men at an evening reception the only permissible dress is full evening costume - a "full dress" coat of soft-faced black vicuna and trousers to match, a white linen, white bow-tie, patent-leather pumps or oxford ties and white gloves.


Décolleté: Cut low at the neckline: a décolleté dress.
Fabric made from the fleece of a llamalike ruminant mammal (Vicugna vicugna) of the Andes.
Cheviot: a fabric of cheviot (small sheep) wool.


Holt, Emily. Encyclopedia of Etiquette - For Everyday Use. New York: Syndicate Publishing Company. 1901 - 1915.


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