Have you just received a tea party invitation? (And not the kind your 4-year-old niece invites you to with her stuffed animal collection clad with fairy wings and rhinestone tiaras) If so, you’re probably scrambling through your closet looking for the perfect outfit.
Tea parties are fabulous, fun, and elegant, so you want to match that theme with your choice of attire – but it’s also important not to overdo it if it is a more casual event.
Typical tea party attire is between smart casual and business casual. But, you should always check with the host to ensure it is not a formal tea party, as this could require a cocktail dress code. A general rule of thumb is to incorporate floral prints and bright colors, but most of the time it is a matter of taste.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of tea parties, the perfect tea party outfits for the occasion, and other helpful tips to get you through a tea party!
Are There Different Types of Tea Parties?
The history of tea parties dates back to the 1830s when the Duchess of Bedford requested tea and a light snack be brought during the afternoon to curb her hunger between meals. Over the years, this tradition developed into a social gathering for royalty and the upper class.
Afternoon tea resembles that of the tea parties held by the Duchess of Bedford and other royal entities in the United Kingdom. It was considered a special occasion, which could require a more formal dress than a high tea party. These royal events usually involved lighter fare such as finger sandwiches, sconces, and other sweet treats.
Historically high tea was meant for the working class, the term “high” tea refers to the table at which the tea was served. High tea was meant to replace dinner and would happen at the dinner table rather than a coffee table.
Simply put, the dinner table is higher than a coffee table, thus granting the name “high tea.” This type of tea party forgoes snacks and tea sandwiches for heartier foods and entree options. Alternatively, the term “low tea” refers to tea in a formal living room at a lower coffee table.
While you may think that high tea is more formal because it takes place at dinner time, it is a less formal event than afternoon tea.
What Should I Wear To a Tea Party?
Now that we have covered a little background knowledge on tea parties, let’s dive into finding the perfect looks for your tea-time attire. There are a ton of great options when it comes to shopping, and you don’t always have to break the bank to look put together.
Plenty of tea party dresses can be found at flea markets or a final sale, so it’s a good idea to shop around! Social media is a great tool to get some visual representation of what people wear to tea parties and garden parties. When in doubt, just elegantly present yourself.
Women’s Attire for a Tea Party
For women, it is common to wear a dress whether you are attending high tea or afternoon tea. Traditionally, these social events were held to a high standard, meaning it was important to dress modestly. A tea party dress code rule to follow is to not show too much skin.
A tea-length dress is a good choice for a tea or garden party. You can make the dress your style by incorporating bright or pastel colors or fun prints like delicate flowers, polka dots, or stripes.
If you are shopping second-hand, you will find that many vintage dresses have puffed sleeves and flared hems, which is a fun silhouette to wear. If you are interested in a more modern look, you can pair a maxi skirt with a smart shirt and create an adorable outfit! Maxi dresses are also a popular option.
Accessories are a fun way to complete an outfit. For shoes, stick to simple, low heels. Nude heels are a great combination with a loud print dress. Many women opt for a tea party hat, but it is not required. If a hat is not your style, you can also dress up an outfit with dangly bracelets or vintage jewelry.
Men’s Attire for a Tea Party
Men’s attire for a tea party is much more simple than women’s, mainly because there are fewer options compared to the dresses, skirts, and blouses that women have to choose from. When in a tea room, men should stick to the basics with dress pants and a collared shirt.
Since tea parties usually take place in the spring or summer months, this is the perfect time to incorporate light colors. Try pairing skin-tone pants with a pastel pink, blue, green, or yellow button-down shirt for a smart tea look! When attending a tea party, men should avoid sneakers or any other type of sportswear.
Other Helpful Tea Party Etiquette Tips
In addition to dressing properly, what are some other ways to behave at a tea party? The days of etiquette lessons are long gone, so following proper etiquette rules is something you may not be accustomed to. Manners should be a top priority at a tea party, so here are a few helpful tips to follow during a tea service!
- No dipping biscuits or scones into tea
- No pinkies out while sipping
- Butter scone with each bite, not the entire scone at once
- No phones at the table
- Hold the teacup by the handle
- Stir tea up and down, not in circles
- Do not put the teaspoon in your mouth
- Do not blow on your tea to cool it down
- Keep the saucer on the table
- Take small sips of tea, not large gulps
- Do not swish tea in your mouth
Some of these guidelines are very dated and may seem silly in a modern-day setting. Believe it or not, these are just some of the many etiquette rules that were followed during the days of early tea parties. If you are nervous about forgetting a rule and looking out of place, it is always a good idea to follow what the host does, as they set the tone for how formal the event will be!
Tea parties have been popular social events since the 1800s when royal entities needed a light meal to keep them full between lunch and dinner. This activity quickly grew and spread not only to the upper class but the working class as well.
Working-class tea parties were called high tea because they took place at the dinner table, which was higher than the average coffee table. They also featured heartier foods rather than finger sandwiches.
When you receive a tea party invitation, it can be daunting planning an outfit to completely fit the theme and occasion. You can follow the general rule that tea party attire is categorized between smart and business casual, but sometimes formal attire is required. The best way to figure out the dress code is to ask the host.
Outfit ideas for women can include tea-length dresses, maxi skirts, and maxi dresses. You can accessorize with fun tea hats, vintage earrings, or a colorful handbag. Men can stick with a simple collared shirt and dress pants for the party. When it comes to color palettes, stick to bright or light colors that would fit a spring-summer affair.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to proper tea party attire! Happy sipping!