This beautiful 1915 tea dress was sold on eBay by USVainen, a seller (sadly, retired) whose knowledge of vintage fashion was astounding and whose descriptions were delightful. This seller graciously agreed to let me share her images and words on my site, and I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!
This dress has the very comfortable shorter length that was fashionable from the middle to late 1915s and features a low empire waistline (waistlines that cinched just under the bust were called “Empire” style and first became fashionable during the reign of Emperor Napoleon in the early 1800s. His creole wife, Empress Josephine, created the style to flatter her slender figure and the fashion quickly caught on throughout Europe. Although waistlines would again sit comfortably around the stomach throughout the Victorian period, the term “Empire” is still used today to describe any dress with a waistline just under the breasts. “Babydoll dress” was the term coined during the 1960s for empire waisted dresses that ended at the knee or higher).
1915 was about the last year to really feature tea dresses in most fashion catalogues. Europe was embroiled in the war and America women had begun to seek employment and other outdoor pursuits and no longer had a need for the social custumes such as tea dresses or visiting dresses. By 1915, tea dresses had morphed from elaborate formal-like vestments to more comfortable, practical, and useable items suitable for the busy women who did not have time for women’s groups.
This dress is in beautiful and clean condition. The lace embroidery is especially beautiful and features the individual style that only hand-stitching can give. Reflecting the 1915 styling, the dress has two tabs that come down to frame the front. The tabs are lined with matching cloth balls. The shorter styling of the sleeves and hem makes this dress more ideal for the petite modern woman. It is likely this is early 1915 since the hemline is still rather narrow.