Lucy Adlington March 2021: Tea Gowns and Dresses of the 1930s

Lynn B started the meeting with a moving book review of Threads of Life, Clare Hunter, which is about how needle and thread have sustained stitchers throughout the ages, with specific examples of how this has maintained memories and morale throughout difficult and often desperate times.  After such a wonderful review I know I, (Val W) for one, will be searching for and reading this book.

 

You cut a length of thread, knot one end and pull the other end through the eye of a needle you take a piece of fabric and push your needle into one side of the cloth, then pull it out on the other until it reaches the knot. You leave a space. You push your needle back through the fabric and pull it out on the other side. You continue until you have made a line, or a curve, or a wave of stitches. That is all there is: thread, needle, fabric and patterns the thread makes. This is sewing.”

 ‘Threads of Life’ by Clare Hunter who explores embroidery as the chosen method of communication for many great examples of noteworthy people during the course of her writing.

 The book is split into well defined chapters on particular themes which makes it very easy to dip in and out of as the feeling takes you.

Do try it, you won’t be disappointed. There is a copy in our library.

Val then introduced Lucy Adlington of History Wardrobe and her show and tell on Tea Gowns and Tea Time in the 1930’s.  Lucy gave us a splendid talk and showed us some (mostly) original patterns, pieces and garments from throughout that decade and explained how these particular garments reflected their social context and social status during the turbulent decade leading from the relief of peace and settling down after the Great War and the Spanish Flu Epidemic to the build up and commencement of the Second World War http ://www.lucyadlington.com

The garments and patterns reflected the streamlining entering the fashion works following the dominance of the art deco movement.  This was typically epitomised in the use of floaty fabrics such as georgettes and chiffons and the mainstream introduction of artificial fabrics such a rayon.  Feminine floral motifs began to dominate, whether printed or embroidered, and the use of bias cut fabrics to allow swirling skirts and dresses that gently enhanced and projected the gentle, delicate, dainty female form that replaced the rail thin androgynous models of the 1920s – such female forms still strictly controlled through, albeit with bralettes and girdles instead of heavy corsets! 

The talk culminated  in Lucy donning a beautiful original 1930s tea gown of sheerest chiffon over a yellow slip and talking through the differences between day gowns of the time and tea gowns – specially donned for that extra special afternoon tea outing with friends, and how tea dresses were often sheerer, floater and a longer length to day dresses, as if to emphasis the floaty ephemeral female ideal being projected at that time.

Along the way we received some splendid nuggets of information about historical fabrics, and I will take her advice and never use rayon hanky!  (Don’t blow your nose on a rayon hanky as the snot slides straight off!)

The afternoon concluded with Val giving our thanks to Lucy for a wonderful show and tell, and wishing all members a safe and happy month until our next meeting.

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