Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tea Length: Yea or Nay?

Readers, I have spent a lot of time shortening vintage patterns from tea length to just-below-knee length. I think I'm even on record as saying that tea length is the most unflattering skirt length possible. But I'm experiencing a change of heart lately. Specifically, since Hailee Steinfeld wore this lovely Marchesa to the Oscars. How adorable is she? Tea length, where have you been all my life? Ah yes, I've been chopping you off all my patterns. My bad.

Some other awesome ladies showing how vintage tea length is done. (You know, I think it needs a cooler name. Champagne length? Rock star length?)


And, of course, the dress that's launched a million tea-length fantasies:
The closest I've ever come to tea length is my yellow dress, which, at a 26" skirt length, is only about 2" longer than I usually go. That's like tea length for wusses.
I think part of my issue is footwear. The longer length really looks better with high heels (emphasis on high), don't you think? So this requires planning ahead. Not just holding up a skirt to you while barefoot in your sewing room, deciding it looks frumpy, and chopping 3 more inches off.


If you like this length, you're certainly not at a loss for patterns. Besides true vintage patterns, re-issues are abundant in tea length. (Though I stand by my earlier suggestion that Vogue offer two variations of their Vintage line in each pattern: one in the original length, and one in a more modern length. Wouldn't that be awesome?)
Vogue 1172

Also, if any of you are getting married, you should totally wear tea-length, like this amazing design. I missed my chance! (Sniff.)
Okay, readers. Thoughts on tea length dresses: yea or nay?

152 comments:

  1. I'm thinking of making my wedding dress in tea length. It's going to look a lot like the last photo, but with a scoop neck and no sleeves....

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  2. Nay for me, I have thick ankles and such length makes my calves look shorter and fatter than they really are.

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  3. I think it depends on the lady and the dress - there's an inherent risk of frumpiness in any garment that ends at a wide point in your body, and tea length often hits at the widest point in your calf. In a full skirt with high heels, this needn't be a problem, but for heaven's sake, don't try it with a straight or A-line skirt. As for a more glamorous name - it is also known as ballerina length!

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  4. A tea length circle skirt I made is the exact reason I wear heels to uni every day now :D

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  5. I am on the tea-length team but then I have no complaints about my ankles or calves so I don't feel like it is high-lighting any "trouble spots. I have more trouble with the more modern, shorter length (on repros) as they are much TOO short for me. I must have long femurs. hheheh k.

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  6. and for the record, I thought Ms. Hailee Steinfeld (and her dressers, professional or otherwise) did a nice job of pulling of elegant but not too grown up. k.

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  7. Yay! But with the right pair of heels. I love my tea length Vogue 2960 re-issue dress. Love the name "ballerina length" that Judi speaks of!

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  8. Yay to tea-length when it's a full-circle skirt, a crinoline and pretty high heels! Nay to tea-length for an A-line skirt with flats. Undecided on long wiggleskirts =)
    Although, I also think tea-length works best with a cute outfit. There's a young and sweet feel to most of these dresses that IMHO work really well with the skirt-length.

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  9. I'm currently having the same revelation. I made the Crepe pattern (in b&w houndstooth), the hem of which just happened to hit at mid calf.
    I felt quite good with it, didn't shorten it and congratulate myself over it eversince !
    It feels extremely New look and chic - eventhought I too used to believe this was an unflattering lenghth, especially for "petite" girls like me.
    So it's a yea (on the one condition that the skirt is full) !

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  10. My all time favourite skirt/dress length. But I prefer to wear tea length dresses in the winter time with a max. 5 cm heel, knee high boots underneath. It looks old fashioned but I like it!
    Not really a fan of über high heels. And while the Marchesa dress in the first photo looks divine, the shoes are all kinds of wrong for this outfit.

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  11. Like any other length, or shape, or color - it depends on the wearer's body. There shouldn't be any sort of generalization when it comes to this. For example, I hate baby blue color, but it looks perfect on my brother, who has blue eyes. I love circle skirts, but they look awful on me, so I avoid them. I find mini skirts inappropriate for women above certain age, but petite and tiny women in their fifties can look terrific in them.
    So, YAY for the tea length, but it all depends on who's wearing it!

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  12. Nay for me! I'm short and it makes me look shorter. That's just me though as I've been wearing tea-length dresses in the form of my private school elementary and high school uniform, so I'm definitely biased against it.

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  13. Oh Gertie! I am so conflicted!! I always hated tea length... I often take up my skirts - but seeing other's really rocking the look has made me think twice. Particularly Solanah's wedding gown!
    But I agree - it needs seriously high heels... so I don't think it will ever be for every day for me!

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  14. I'm with Lyra and Judi on this one... I think it depends on how you are built. Tea length looks lovely on the ladies in the photos, but it makes me look kind of short and stumpy.

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  15. I LOVE tea length dresses! Early New Look is my favorite vintage era, and they are all about fabulous long skirts.

    I died a little inside every time you pronounced them frumpy in the past. LOL! ;)

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  16. Yea for me. I have skinny calves and ankles so I think this length works for me in heels or flats. I prefer midi-length or tea length skirts over the above-the-knee length that all the shops sell. They feel really glamorous with mid-high heels.

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  17. I think it is a difficult length to wear, I agree with Erika that it looks better with a circle skirt and crinoline than any other style of skirt. That said, I do have a tea-length pencil dress and it's very flattering with heels - I sometimes wonder if it would look good with ballet flats (like capri pants do, for example) but I have never got around to styling it in that way. I dislike a-line skirts at tea-length, I think you really are venturing into frump territory there.

    Gertie, I think your suggestion for the Vogue reissues is a good one, a vintage length and a modern length. Tea-length, especially in a cirlce skirt, is a bit more difficult to wear and a slightly shorter option would be very practical for most people. That said, I am at work today in an office, wearing a tea-length gown, a crinoline and heels. Practicality doesn't always come into it!!

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  18. Tea length was huge in the 70's. A lot of formal wear chose the style for versatility. You weren't investing a lot in a dress that could only be worn once. I love the comeback. Every leg looks good in tea length.

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  19. I am with you on it being a difficult length and high heels are the secret. I think proportions to body are important too, love the looks on others still trying it on me, 5ft is a tricky hight. Have a great week. ax

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  20. Yea! How could I say nay after looking at Hailee's dress. Nonetheless, tea length manages to hide my legs without looking too conservative- it's my favorite length.

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  21. Tea length is a totally feminine look for most people. While most look best in a hemline that stands away from the body, (full skirts, circle skirts,) ladies with thinner legs and ankles can wear them in any configuration. Part of the appeal of vintage fashion is enhanced by the tea length gown/dress. Of course, examining the look in different heel heights will determine the best look for you. Many, many ladies don't look their best in shorter skirts. Unfortunately, the longer tea length has come out of favor recently but the resurgence of vintage patterns and vintage clothing in general will hopefully validate this totally feminine style.

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  22. Change the name? What have you got against tea? :)

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  23. I love the way that it looks and I even like it on me, but I like my legs and usually like to show them in shorter lengths.

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  24. I love tea length. In fact, I am wearing a tea length pencil (wiggle) skirt right now. But I indeed always wear really high heals with it. With flat shoes I think it easily looks dowdy ( I just wrote an entire paragraph painting a picture of what kind of person I would feel like wearing a combination like that, but I don't want to offend anyone :-D). So go for it! (And those wedding dresses look gorgeous. I married in a long gown, but if I ever were to marry again (which I'm not) I would go for tea length definitely!)

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  25. For ages now everybody keeps telling and writing that knee length is the most flattering length and I could never ever agree. In contrary to common believe I always found shorter skirts extremely plain, old fashioned, boring and - on most women - unflattering.
    These knee long skirts are supposed to show the thinnest part of your legs - so it is clear it is not for women with thin legs (which is sadly the category I myself fall in): they want to showcase the roundest part which is the calf. Meaning skirts hiding the thinnest part. Or making them very short when you are younger to show that your legs do have curves ;-)

    For women with broad hips the knee length is also not too nice, especially with straight or tapered skirts: a short line from hip to knee makes you look wider than long. Make the skirt longer and you will appear taller and slimmer.

    Of course there are women who look great in those shorter skirts - but they might look as good in a longer one which is always more elegant. We wouldn't be that fascinated by fifties fashion if the skirts would have been shorter.

    But as I said: it just seemed to be a truth universally acknowledged that a skirt in possession of a lady in it must be in want of a hem ending at kneelength in order to be young, modern and flattering ;-)

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  26. Yea on tea length - one of my major bugbears is repro dresses which are supposed to look 50s but then sit an inch below the knee and ride up above it as you walk - hence why I make all my own clothes!

    I love tea length for full skirts, and my favourite wiggle skirt is tea length too but is very fitted at the hem - for staighter pencil skirts I usually go slightly shorter so it's not baggy round the calves, about three inches below the knee.

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  27. Yea! Although would it suit short people like myself?!?

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  28. Oh!
    I'm watching Audrey singing in that dress right now!
    It's working for me.
    yes to dress-length.

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  29. I love tea-length skirts and dresses. When I'm fitting something, I make a point of wearing the shoes as well as the underthings I plan to wear, because it does make a difference.

    Calling it ballerina length sounds much more glamourous.

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  30. If I could do it again, it would be a tea length, full tulle skirt wedding dress with stiletto heels. You betcha.

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  31. I WAS married in a tea length dress! It was made just for me by my 80 year old friend who was a former boutique owner and designer. It was very 50's with a poofy, swishy skirt, an enormous hem, and yards and yards of Italian silk organza. I loved wearing it so much. So yea to tea length! Definitely!

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  32. I love calling it ballerina length.

    I think the tea length looks really nice in these photos, probably because they are full skirts. Somehow I don't think it would look so nice with a straight skirt.

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  33. I think the name "tea length" sounds cool actually, but I love tea :) That would be a great length for a wedding dress! But I agree with you, I feel like it does require high heels to make it work right (maybe you can get away with it if you have looong legs?).

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  34. The problem with tea length is that it's a touch too long and formal for everyday life and when you have an excuse to wear along gown, most women jump at it. After all, how many chances to you get to go floor length? So tea length get left out.

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  35. I'm in the process of making that very vogue pattern you posted...and shortening it. For me, it is a nay because of my body shape. But for someone thinner or taller, I think it could be a yea.

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  36. Yea for me, personally.

    I think it's a slightly difficult length to wear, though. As much as I hate to say this, I think it does have limitations with regards to which body types can wear it without looking like they've been cut off at the ankles. I'm 5'7" and average build, and I can wear it. An acquaintance of mine who is 4'11" and heavyset, cannot (trust me on this. I've seen it).

    I agree, too, that it has to either be a big skirt with a crinoline, or a pencil skirt, but not an A-line, and it really does need heels.

    So, yea, but with qualifications.

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  37. I would say yea with the right shoes, and agree with you that the shoes often need to be high to make the dress flattering. I also find tea length very formal, and don't really need dresses for very formal occasions. Maybe a wedding dress... Nevertheless, all the pics you've found makes me say YEA!

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  38. I like the name tea length, actually. It makes me think of tea parties & afternoon/high tea, which are rather luxurious, imho.

    I think heels and/or height are key to pulling off this look. I am 5'1" and will never wear tall heels, so it's out for me. I also have proportionally large feet and have always hated skirts that fall between the knee and ankle because I worry that they will make my feet look even bigger.

    Like Kiki, I decided to leave my crepe dress (which I am wearing for the first time today, actually) a bit longer than usual, but for me that was only about 1 inch below the knee.

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  39. Depends. Obviously Hailee Steinfeld was a frothy vision of propriety and the dress was drool-worthy, but tea length is tricky for two reasons: 1) like Gertie said, it's so not-modern and clearly dated, and 2) you have to have the right legs/ankles for this. I happen to have long, thin legs, and tea length still makes my legs appear to be cropped and thick. Plus, I love to make garments from vintage patterns, but I want them to translate to the modern day, too. Who wants to wear a costume? Thus I am also guilty of chopping off 3+ inches on any tea length pattern.

    Tea length undoubtedly looks best with tall heels, preferably pointy-toed stilettos to continue the visual illusion of lengthening and thinning your legs. I'm pretty sure Audrey Hepburn is the only petite lady who can pull off ballet flats and tea length! That probably has something to do with her status as the poster child of les gamines.

    I think the Steinfeld-Oscar case brings up an interesting debate: is tea length more flattering on the very young or middle-aged and older? I always thought of tea length as being more appropriate for my mother or grandmother, but this length is both demure and ADORABLE on a 14-year old. Furthermore, I'm now thinking that tea length might look a little too dated for my mother or grandmother. Maybe since the look sort of defines the mid-century, it pairs best with an opposite age? However, there is clearly an argument to be made against this with the lovely examples of America Ferrara and the First Lady.

    Ultimately the debate boils down to: who is the lady, what is the occasion, which shoes did she choose, and how crazy-lovely is the dress? It's hit or miss...

    Finally, who else is obsessing over find a pattern with a full skirt and an illusion neckline?!

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  40. tea length is my favorite. so elegant. when i post pictures of my handmade dress it annoys when i get comments like "it would be so much cuter if it was shorter" well i dont think so at all! I think its also more versatile because i am more likely to wear it to work and more formal places because theres less risk of showing off my goods in a breeze.

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  41. I am with the "I love it" vote. My wedding dress was tea length. :)

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  42. I love tea length dresses. I think they can still look cute and playful if done right. My wedding dress was an a-line tea length dress and I loved it. My reception was a very casual beachy affair and I was determined to dance a lot so a gown was not an option. The shorter length was particularly great when my new hubby, our friends and I decided to go swimming in our party clothes. The waves are much more navigable when you can hike up your skirt.

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  43. For me, no way. I am barely 5'3" and I feel like I'd be swimming in something tea-length. I do think a tea-length full skirt can be pulled off by the right person in the right heels, though in my opinion it's best for more formal dresses. I would feel silly in one.

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  44. Yay on tea length. I'm very busty and longer silhouettes help balance out my heavy upper torso. I've tried knee-length skirts and I look like I'm going to tip over. Add a few inches and it puts everything into proportion.

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  45. Since I'm vertically challenged and have a rather practical look on my sewing I pass on this.

    I think I look ok with heels and tea length, sure. But I don't live my life in heels, even though I love to wear them on occasion. Once, I wore a tea length dress with a pair of leather boots. Really ugly since the boot only made my thigh larger. I think even Audrey look (just) a bit frumpy in the post above with the ballerina shoes. And that's Audrey!

    I like to wear my home sewn dresses everyday! With the shoes I wear everyday! Heels everyday are not for me, especially here in Sweden in winter. And I love use my summer dresses with thights and boots.

    There are a lot of shoes with lesser height that are just as retro and beutiful, but who don't work with this length. I like to wear beutiful dresses always!

    On a side track: Just as you're saying, it's important to wear you work in progress with the accessories you intend to use later on, such as the same bra and shoes. To know what you *really* will look like, and avoid feel down if you think you look like a haysack. That's just your slippers!

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  46. I forgot to add that I don't think it's so important with different lengths in patterns. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think it's remotely hard to add or extract fabric so that you get the lenght you want (not in circle skirts anyways). For us shorties it's a standard measure. :)

    I also agree with the crinoline and petticoat statement. When you use one the fabric gets wider and also shorter. The hem sits higher up on your leg. Therefore it's important to think about this if you intend to use your skirt with a crinoline and add as much hem as you think the skirt will shorten when worn. That way, you get the length you want. (If you intend to use a petticoat that sticks out from the hem I even might be a good idea to shorten the hem to get a nice effect.) Also, the skirt gets airer and I think you can "get away" with a more unflattering hem length. If the circle skirt is larger you get more the nice swinging effect, of course which is a plus for tea lenght in my opinion.

    But for me I'm still on the knee length track even if some special ocassion circle skirt may shrink down my leg just a bit...

    (Man, what I talk)

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  47. I love tea length on other people, but sadly not for me. They only work on those blessed with slender ankles. So for someone with thicker ankles, like me, they are a complete disaster, on a par with booties. I honestly think part of the reason I'm so sad I can't wear this look is that I just love the name. "Tea length" is so . . . adult, and old-fashioned, and charming.

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  48. I've been on the fence with this as well. I think I've always liked the 'idea' of tea length but not the reality.

    I think the name was what 'attracted' me. It sounded sweet and delicate. But in reality I think it does the total opposite to the figure.

    If I were an anorexic amazon then maybe....maybe tea length would be flattering on me.

    Us 5 foot 1 girls need all the naked leg they can get.

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  49. Tea length is what I look best in. (That or above-the-knee, but I never wear that.) My calves are such that you should either see all of them or very little, but my ankles are good and I like to wear heels. I pretty much always wear tea length skirts and dresses.

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  50. I like them, though I don't wear them very often. I loved the FLOTUS' Christmas dress.

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  51. Tea length looks best on the extremely thin and/or the extremely young - or those who can pull off the young look.

    I'm more likely to make the whole thing ankle length!

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  52. I am short and tea length tends to make me look even shorter even when wearing heels. I op for just below or above the knee, but then again I'm short so I don't have much leg to show.

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  53. I think tea-length is about the most comfortable length skirt and I'm all for comfort. I am old enough to remember when this lenght was "midi" as compared to mini. When midis came in they were a breath of fresh air after struggling with too short skirts. I agree that they are sometimes not the most flattering, but for me they are the best.

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  54. Yay for formal nay for everyday. My prom dress 8 years ago was tea length and I love it

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  55. I love tea length! I had my wedding dress tea length because I'm short and it looked much better, it was a very 50s design anyway so suited the design too.

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  56. Some people really look super cute in a tea length dress. But the fact is, these - same goes for maxi-dresses/skirts - are just not meant for little people like me. Even if I wear high heels, I still look small in one of those.

    But I absolutely love how some people work this kind of dress/skirt.

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  57. I loved tea length when I was younger and slimmer. I have slim ankles and calves so I always felt great it in it but the fattest part of my calf is only about an inch and a half below my knee. I've always felt it made me look taller too (I'm 5ft 5) I'm not sure its an easy look to pull off but you've given me inspiration to give it a go :)

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  58. I love tea length! I'm only 5 feet, but the length seems to flatter my ankles, and I've also been told it makes me look a little 'longer'

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  59. I absolutely loved Hailee Steinfeld's dress! I have it saved in my "inspiration" folder. I love tea length dresses on other people, but not on me. I'm short, and cannot (er, refuse to) walk in high heels. Not a good combination for tea length. I'm with you, Gertie, on shortening dresses to just below the knee.

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  60. I have muscular calves, so I tend to go above the knee on my dresses... but if the tea length were to fall right below the calf, it'd look pretty sweet =)

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  61. Proportions and lines - that's the answer!

    If you cut the dress across the widest point of your calf than, nay - it is very unflattering! If it is slightly above your ankle - yay!

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  62. Tea length (similar to "jeggings" and horizontal stripes)looks adorable if you have a body type that can pull it off. That means LOOOOOOONG skinny legs. I'm 5'3" with stocky swimmer's legs. I'm not out of shape, but I'm definitely curvy and short-statured so I look ridiculous in a tea length dress. If you can wear it and look good, go for it! I will be cheering you on in my knee length or mini.

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  63. I only have one tea length dress and one skirt and that is because I loved the fabrics so much I just couldn't get rid of any. Being a shorty-short, knee length or shorter is de rigeur.

    That said, I have seen some darling romantic-length tutus that I'd love to make into a skirt. Ballerina length is nice, but I vote for Champagne.

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  64. My wedding dress was tea-length, and I loved, but yes, I had to wear the highest heels I've ever worn, to date, and I got married 15 years ago! I practiced wearing them every evening after work. I came home, put on knee highs with shorts and wore them all through dinner prep and dish-washing so I wouldn't fall on my face (or my toosh) in the middle of the ceremony. I did just fine.

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  65. Yea!!! I LOVE tea length, although on me(short and a little more soft than those movie stars) the proportions look a little funny. I almost wore a tea length wedding dress, back when i was a size 4. But it does take a certain body proportion and proper heel to pull it off gracefully and high class. Otherwise you end up looking like your dress just doesn't fit.

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  66. I'm short, so there's very little difference between "just below the knee" and "mid-calf." Having said that, my calves are pretty skinny so I don't think this is a bad place for my hemline to hit.

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  67. Most definitely yea.
    Especially on wiggle skirts. It just looks so elegant and cool when worn by someone that can pull it off.

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  68. Every time I see photos of myself in tea length dresses, I cock my head. I just don't look like me somehow. Not a fan for myself, but I do adore the look on others.

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  69. Tea length is tricky, I think. And it is all wrong for me. But on others, I think it can look very sweet - which is why it is lovely on a bride or a very young woman like Hailee Steinfeld.

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  70. Yea. ( Tea length was to be worn after 5pm and before 7pm, or English Tea Time, after 7 you wear (floor length) formal gowns.)

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  71. I like both lengths. I like tea length if I want to go a bit more formal.

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  72. Tea length makes all but lumberjack ankles look delicate and seductive. I think the look is better with a full skirt than a sheath, and I say, go for it. I remember a midnight blue tea length silk satin dress my mother had--slightly off the shoulder wide straps and yards of skirt--heavenly. While I've started to wear some shorter things, I still find this length age appropriate and very becoming.

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  73. I've always loved tea-length. I actually prefer my dresses to be that length. My calves are better looking than my knees or thighs, and I do get compliments on my legs, so it's no concern for me to wear skirts/dresses that length.

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  74. I love tea length! I notice many folks commenting about how it hits them at the widest part of the calf, but true tea length is just below that widest part where things are trimmer. Could be why so many women have disliked it? It's not for the seriously bow legged or knock kneed ( =( ) and looks terrible with clunky shoes; lower heels looks great as long as the shoe looks light and airy. I have short legs and thick ankles and hate pantyhose with a mad passion. I can wear knee highs with the tea length and be so much cooler in the summer!

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  75. Definite Yea! I am getting married this weekend in a self-made silk fifties-style dress with a skirt length to just an inch or so under the knee. I think if the skirt is flared or has volume it balances any potential thicker calves out. I would, however not wear a tea length pencil skirt or any narrow dress.

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  76. I'm taking a dressmaking class with Mary Adams (author The Party Dress Book) in April. After this post, I'm reconsidering the knee length dress that I was going to make. Tea length with heels is so glamorous.

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  77. Nay. My girlfriend insisted on a tealength gown for her wedding dress and it was so stumpifying. I love her dearly, but it was a terrible decision. I think you need to be very tall and slim (like Hailee) to make this choice.

    On the other hand, for formal occasions, you can see the pretty shoes! and who doesn't love that? How many pictures have you seen of girls hiking up their skirts to show off their feet; I suppose a tea length gown makes the "shoe-porn shot" a little less silly looking.

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  78. At 66, 5'2", and a little bit heavier than I used to be, I find a tea length on me to be very bad. One good reason is that length is a bit close to floor for someone my height. Also there needs to be a higher heel and volume to the skirt and a nice fresh look to the dress design. The dresses shown are very pretty though, aren't they?

    I believe that my prom dresses from 1958-1962 were just below knee as was standard for the time and they were quite cute. I still wish I had my teal organza with the fitted bodice, slightly scoop neck and full organza sleeves (full skirt, of course). During my freshman year of college, Momma donated all my prom dresses to a consignment shop in Port Huron, MI so other girls who couldn't afford a brand new dress could have something nice. She was right, and to this day I donate my clothes, even my klunkers that just don't look good on me. I know that they will look fine on someone else.

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  79. I'm not sure of the official names per length, but I always call that first one and Audrey's ballerina length but there is also matinee length which is what I think your dress is. I'm sure there is some great vintage resource book that clearly gives the measurements (from the floor) for each of these out there.

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  80. Oops, actually as I remember, tea IS the same as matinee, because it refers to a dress short enough to be worn during the day. Ballerina is the slightly longer "cocktail cousin", closer to the ankle bone.
    I think I'm going to have to research and write a post about this now.

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  81. Yea!!! I wore a tea length dress for me wedding last year. It was the Audrey dress by Stephanie James. I'm curvy and not very tall. I wore rather high platform heels with it that were surprisingly comfortable.

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  82. I love the look of a tea length dress when it's a full skir--not so much with a pencil skirt. My parents married in 1957 and my mom wore a tea length dress that was lace, with a full skirt, long sleeves and little collar. I always loved her dress...

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  83. I want a tea length wedding dress but can't rock the super high heels because if I marry who I think I'm gonna marry it'll have me towering over him! I will probably have to chop it off a bit so I can go with a kitten heel.

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  84. I love tea length full skirts with kitten heels; very Sabrina! And sky high heels with slim cut, shorter lengths. The flats only come out with Capri's, shorts or a sun-dress in a mini length.
    I think that my personal preferences come from tried and true experience of what looks good on me; it is different for everyone! You have to like the styling or you're just not going to be able to pull it off, no matter how fantastic it looks on paper.

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  85. New name: ANKLETASIA length.

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  86. I'm not a fan of tea-length at all. And its not because I have trouble with my ankles (they're actually one of my better features). I do love the dress Hailee wore to the Oscars, but I think that it was appropriate for her considering her age. That was part of what made it wonderful on her. I just think a woman in her 30's and beyond always runs the risk of looking frumpy in a tea-length dress. Your yellow dress is the perfect length, not quite tea length and still sexy!

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  87. Tea--YAY (with HIGH heels). Tea+flats = little girlish...now I'll be singing So Long, Farewell (sound of music) the rest of the afternoon. lol

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  88. Yay for me. Being somewhat tallish and slender, I like my 50's repro dresses to hit just below my calf. But I always wear heels with them and tight sweaters to balance the proportions. It certainly doesn't work for everyone but I love the look.

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  89. There's a finesse to get it just the right length, and of course it depends on the shape of the dress, but I really like tea length for ball gowns because you can actually dance in it, with no risk of anyone tripping!

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  90. I have always loved tea length which is just above the ankle. The most unflattering length in my opinion is mid calf because it visually widens it. However, if you have toothpick legs, that may be a good way to fake some curves. My Granny loved mid calf and that, of course, was a fashionable length in the 40's.

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  91. I'm way too practical to wear tea length, or high heels. I like walking!

    Btw, I was a ballerina and never wore a skirt that long. Mainly we wore leotards. But it does sound better than tea length, though I'm afraid tea and ballerinas are equally uncommon in the US.

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  92. Hmm, so many nays from shorter gals but I am also a shortie (5' 2") and I prefer tea length. I have an hourglass shape but with skinny, skinny calves that just look awkward in shorter skirts. Some are saying the longer length looks frumpy, but wearing a classic 50s style nipped/belted waist dress that accentuates your curves I think it is very flattering.

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  93. nay!
    with my long torso, broad hips and 30" inseam... i think with tea length i'd look quite corgilike!

    'adorable' isn't typically the look i'm after when getting dressed, and i'm not particularly keen to take fashion cues from the 14 year old set, even the Marchesa wearing ones. Michelle Obama's dress looks to me perhaps a little higher than tea? she's also tall and long-legged, which helps her wear the tea elegantly (the high neck certainly helps - i think the strapless tea on a curvy girl is less appealing... i just wanna run up and chop some inches off that dress!).

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  94. Tea length is definitely a YAY for me!

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  95. Yes. Always tea length. I live for tea length.
    You know what's frumpy looking? Capri pants. Now those can be horribly unattractive.

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  96. I love tea length on other people. I have always felt too short. However, I have never had high enough heels. I am going to revist tea length.

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  97. I think all skirt lengths are flattering if styled carefully, but personally, I say nay. I *always* cut length off vintage patterns when I make them for a more modern and less juvenile look. Tea length is currently a standard length for toddlers' and girls' dresses and honestly it reminds me mostly of dresses I wore when I was twelve! Also I'm very thin and not very tall so I tend to avoid anything too long or full so the clothes don't swamp me.

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  98. I would also say nay, except that these fabulous photos you've shown look so happening. So now! I think all skirt lengths can actually be done artfully and appealingly, but I think the point you are making about the high heels is a very good one. Frumpy, dumpy and too much like a little girl wanting to be a grown-up or vice versa if you were to wear tea length dress with flats. Total yay from me!

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  99. Yea for me. I have always loved the length and the grace it has to offer a body. Unless one has ankle issues, I feel it is a go for most. I do think the fullness of a skirt is more of an issue depending on one's height with the tea length.

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  100. the Vintage SeamstressMarch 22, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Yea! Tea length rocks. Like you said, it needs a heel but I actually don't often shorten my vintage patterns as I find the tea length more authentically vintage. I also like the look of tea length on a straight skirt!

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  101. I love tea length! In fact, one of my pet peeves in the vintage sewing world is that people always make the skirts so modernly short. Sure, sometimes it improves a pattern or makes it more practical or flattering, but hem lines are such an intrinsic and defining part of an era of fashion, as much as fabrics or construciton. You wouldn't make a 40s dress out of double-knit polyester (at least I hope not), so why make your 50's tea length dress into an above-knee go-go skirt?

    Of course, I sew for authenticity, not re-invention, so that's where my loyalty to original hemlines comes from.

    As for weddings, I am honored to be in my best friend's wedding this summer (I am making my own dress) and she asked us to please pick a dress that was below knee or tea length. Yay for tea length!

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  102. Definitely "ballerina length" is the term in Australia and the UK

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  103. OK, haven't had a chance to read comments but, no doubt, someone else has said this: Tea length is good depending on proportions of wearer. I believe that slender calves are a must as are tall heels. And I do think the shape tends to work better on willowy frames (not exclusively). I don't own anything tea length - I don't really lead that sort of life :-) but I do love to see it on others.

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  104. Yea for tea legnth! I have to agree that I didn't really like them befor ebut after I saw that Marchesa dress, I thought it was darling.

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  105. Tea length is the best! You definitely need heels though- the higher the better. It's just so ladylike and flattering.

    www.scout-vintage.blogspot.com

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  106. I have to say nay on tea length. Being on the shorter side with large calves is just a combination for looking shorter and wider.

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  107. For the vast majority of cases I would say nay to tea length dresses. However, there are those rare gems that defy my natural tendency to say nay and make me say YEA! The dresses you pictured were good examples. Maybe I'm more keen on them when they're on the fancier side or something!

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  108. I'm a fan of longer skirts from time to time, but as a thicker-ankled type, I make sure to wear a flattering high heel and always wonder whether there's a "magic spot" for the hem to hit on the lower leg to improve the look.

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  109. I'm a fan! As long as it doesn't hit at the widest part of the calf and worn with high heels. :-)

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  110. Tea length: YEA! I love it and think it's so feminine. I think it looks great with heels, but also with pretty ballet flats.

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  111. Tea-length with heels.

    I have big calves and anything knee length or above the knee only accentuates their wideness. On me, I find the look really unflattering and prefer something longer.

    As far as tea-length goes, I don't stop the hem at the widest point of the calf but an inch or so lower. I'm tall (5'9½, 1m76), which helps, especially if I wear heels.

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  112. Yea! Mainly because I am so short and too lazy to adjust the hem on my 2nd hand dresses. BUT you must wear high heels.
    I regret letting my mum adjusting my pencil skirts to be shorter. I wish they were now mid calf. It just creates a better line is all.
    Question does anyone just like to go through their suitcase full of vintage (VOGUE!) patterns. Dreaming of dresses and fabric etc. Or is it just me being ... well weird.

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  113. I love tea length and think it's oh so elegant but at 5 foot nothing I would have to wear 4 inch heels to pull it off and that is not happening I'm afraid, so just below the knee it is.

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  114. YEA! i've never worn one, but they look gorgeous for formal affairs (the Oscars one! swoon!) but for more casual dresses, i totally prefer the modern take on it.

    Although, it "champagne" length was adopted, I would be ALL over it - what a CUTE term :)

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  115. I love the idea of tea length. And I have no issues with my ankles and calves, so that's not a problem for me.

    But in practice? I am unsure. For one, it requires heels, which I rarely wear. Plus, I tend to see it as looking young. Which is fine, but I already look younger than my age and I'm not sure that will help when I'm trying to be taken seriously...I love the innocent girlishness of it, but in practicality I already give off that energy in spades and need to temper it.

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  116. Out of curiosity ... what was your wedding dress like, Gertie? :D

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  117. All those photos make tea length all kinds of yea. Alas, my stumpy legs (chunky calves + being 5'2") make it a big fat nay ... unless I want to look even shorter and like I have the legs of a rhino. Generally not a look I go for.

    If, however, you're a slender-legged missy and/or tall, then you're probably OK. Lucky gits!

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  118. I LOVE tea length dresses. If dresses are too short on me, I end up looking like a little girl. The extra length gives it a little more sophistication.

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  119. I am a little wary. I am not tall and tea length (I love the name, by the way; like tea gown, it makes me think of extremely formal high tea in lovely afternoon gowns) doesn't make me look any taller, but I still like it, alhough, yes, high heels are important.

    I wore a wonderful, tea length 50's dress in oyster-coloured brocade for New Year's, for example. It has elbow length sleeves, ample cleavage and the skirt hooks onto the petticoat to form a bubble skirt - a tea length bubble skirt! I wear it with insane, sequinned red heels and my very best posture.

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  120. Yay! I think it would fit especially well for special occasion dresses.

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  121. Ummm...yes! Tea length is the best thing ever for the calve-ishly underendowed like myself. Also, so much more elegant than shorter. I don't even have to wear more than a kitten heel.

    And I love the name 'tea length'. It sounds just like it is - an elegant tea party dress length!

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  122. A big YEA! I love this length, always feel a bit naked when a skirt i cropped by the knee, or worse above. I'm quite tall so I think it works for me, specially with heels. but saddles and bobbysocks of course is ok that too... for a more casual look...

    / Olivia

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  123. I say yea to tea length! My wedding dress was tea length lace, really similar to the last pic in your post. I loved it - and I wore flat shoes with it and I think it looked fine.

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  124. OMG...I'm obsessed with fancy tea length dresses, but alas...never have the occasion to wear them.
    I'm thinking I should take the advice of my daughters and wear them anywhere & everywhere, "just because"

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  125. OMG...I'm obsessed with fancy tea length dresses, but alas...never have the occasion to wear them.
    I'm thinking I should take the advice of my daughters and wear them anywhere & everywhere, "just because"

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  126. I say 'yay'!

    I quite like it, though I agree it almost requires heels. Perhaps those with ultra-slender legs would be an exception to that.

    I like tea length so much that I keep debating hemming my wedding gown (handmade from a vintage vogue pattern) up to tea length and dying it. It is the dying part that really scares me. It would be heartbreaking if it didn't come out right.

    If you ever decide to do a post on dying very large items, that would tip the scale for sure.

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  127. It's my favorite wedding length, especially if the bride is petite. That said, I've never been able to buy it for myself :(

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  128. So funny you should say getting married in tea length... I totally did! It was a vintage gown (not a handmade one, I'll have to get married to Husbie again to wear a handmade one, as my sewing skillz weren't up for it when I got married) and I thought it was a bit risky for a short/petite person like myself... But, it looked very classic!

    YAY for the Tea Length!

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  129. Nay. To me it looks like the dress was cut too short. But the wedding dress at the end looks fabulous, or maybe her posing makes it look OK?

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  130. I love tealength. For myself, I like to wear dresses and skirts as much as possible, but I also like to ride my bike, garden a bit and be able to play with my son. All can still be done with a simple dress at that length, to much shorter and I spend my time wondering if everyone can see my "business" insted of enjoying my activity.

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  131. The length of a skirt should be where it looks the most flattering. The wider the skirt, the longer it needed to be to look well-proportioned. I think that is why tea length is wonderful.

    We were told to stand in front of a mirror with a piece of poster board and raise and lower the poster board to see where the most flattering spot is. It probably has a several inch variable before it looks less flattering. The widest part of the calf is not it.

    It depends on how tall you are where that hem should go. It used to be a certain number of inches from the floor was the rule, but 10 inches from the ground on a 5'10" girl falls at a much different spot than 10" up on one 5'3". We would pin it up with petticoats on to see how it looked before cutting off any excess and hemming. Back in the late 1950's my youthful preference was to have the hem touch the floor if I was sitting on a hassock. I didn't care if it was flattering when standing, I just felt like a princess at that length.

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  132. I'm in agreement with the folks who say it depends on the girl. I also personally feel like it comes across as either more formal or more frumpy. All the dresses you posted were pretty formal, and I think the length works well for that (the wedding dress is lovely). I'm just not sure if I would like it on an everyday dress...

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  133. I think it all depends, really. I happen to like the way it looks on some people, and I guess I never have gotten over wanting one of these gowns! I think sometimes the dress is really crying out for tea length, especially if the skirt is very full. If you're going for an authentic look (as opposed to updated), then keep that skirt longer. But if you have "issues" with your legs and ankles, you may want to make other choices.

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  134. Very interesting discussion. I don't have much to add except to say that I think the term "tea length" came about as it was considered the proper length for dresses to wear for tea dances. Not so formal as a full-length dress as these dances were held in the late afternoon around tea time.

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  135. I posted but nothing showed...so here goes again.
    I wwore a tea length dress for my wedding in 1958...it was a lace sheath with an overskirt of taffeta and a net underskirt...very stylish for an afternoon wedding.
    I still have it and it is as good as new. If you would like I could send a picture so you can see how we dresses in those days...My husband of 53 years told me I looked so pretty.
    Thanks Geri of Beaverton Oregon USA

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  136. I wore a tes length dress for my wedding in 1958. It was a lace sheath with a taffeta over skirt (removable)and a net petty coat underneath the removable skirt...I could send a pictureof me wearing it fi you would like. Thanks, Geri of Beaverton Oregon USA

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  137. After reading this, I have to say, "yea"! I was even inspired to design a tea-length wedding of my own, which you can see at http://cutandbaste.blogspot.com/2011/05/blue-wedding-dress.html
    (I linked you in the article, too). Many thanks!

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  138. I think I have been converted by this post maybe. In the past I have shortened all my vintage patterns. My 15 year old daughter told me they looked frumpy in the tea length version, but didn't have my heels on. I felt the dresses looked too costumey in the longer length. I make costumes for the theatre and felt too much like a character in a play.

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  139. I really like tea length too. I have a dress waiting hemming that I was going to crop but when I tryed it on it just felt right sat at tea length so I decided to leave it that way.

    I think with a full or circle skirt, tea length works with heels or pretty pumps (heels better). Pencil skirt absolutely needs heels.

    I have to be a pedant and agree with lsaspacey that ballerina and tea length are different lengths. Tea length is around mid calf but can be slightly longer or shorter.

    Ballerina length skims the top of the ankle and has a full skirt. It's named after the iconic full length ballerina's tutu and had a resurgence in the 80s in pouffy evening and prom dresses. Its another style I think looks and feels very elegant done right (definitely heels!). Its a lot more flattering on non-skinny legs as it highlights the curve in above the ankle rather than cutting across the fullest pat of the lower leg.

    Vintage petticoat/slip patterns are good sources of length terminology!

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  140. love tea length but sure its gonna suit me

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  141. Absolutely yes! My ankles are actually one of my favorite features, so a tea length ballerina skirt on my wedding dress is a dream!

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  142. Yea!!!
    I'm short (5'5) and while I know they make me appear shorter, I love them.
    Make me feel like more of a lady :)

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  143. Yeaaaa! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I recently purchased my tea-length wedding dress without having given it much prior thought. I do love it but for a moment I was second-guessing myself- thinking maybe I should have gone more traditional, long, ball gown... I am back to feeling 100% confident about my choice and mucho excited to rock it. Thanks again. So, any tips on shoes?

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  144. I love tea length dresses for everyday wear...not for wedding dresses!

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  145. Ummm... isn't that ballerina length (dress no.1), which is slightly longer than tea lenght?

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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