The renowned tea parties come from a British tradition of indulging in tea and sweets, pastries, fruits, and confectioneries at around 5 pm and 7 pm, hence ‘afternoon tea.’ Traditionally, afternoon tea parties were started by royal families and aristocrats leisurely drinking tea in fancy clothing and sitting on posh furniture.
Over time, the English working-class families adopted this tradition, but afternoon tea was served after work with heartier and heavier meals like meats and more cakes while sitting at the table, hence the name high tea.
In modern times, high tea or afternoon tea parties are afternoon social events of the upper classes involving light meals accompanied by tea or sometimes, champagne. They also incorporate glamorous decor, high tea etiquette, and elegant dress codes. Whether your high tea is at a luxurious hotel or a simple cafe, having the appropriate dress code is essential.
Most venues allow for smart casual attire, but it is also an excuse for the ladies to dress up. Conservative outfits are the most appropriate for English high tea events. We are here to help you figure out the most proper outfit for your high tea function.
How should I dress for a tea party?
Generally, both men and women keep it smart-casual or semi-formal for tea parties. The aim is to look clean, polished, yet relaxed. Some high tea events may also dictate their dress-codes depending on the occasion; for example, some hotels and gatherings require men to wear a jacket.
You can wear smart jeans or clean-cut trousers with a collard shirt and simple brogues or leather loafers to complete the look for men. You can also wear a cardigan or jacket. A tie to a high tea event is not mandatory unless specified. If you have to opt for a suit, it has to be fitted and well-tailored. For a modern look, stylist Jim Kocek suggests that you go for bold or pastel colors and prints like stripes.
You can get away with trainers in a more casual setting, but they should be simple and of a plain color. Do make sure they are clean and not what you use for jogging. Stay away from t-shirts, rugged jeans, sweatpants, and sportswear.
For the ladies, elegant and feminine silhouettes are the way to go. Choose skirts that have full, A-line, or pencil styles. Keep the colors soft and bright. Avoid dresses or skirts that are too tight and very low-cut necklines.
Avoid work and club attire and dresses with body cutouts.
What do ladies wear to high tea?
Women have an array of options to wear to high tea. Depending on the high tea event, you can go all out with gowns or keep it neat and uncomplicated.
- High tea dresses- Take inspiration from floral designs, textured or printed styles. The dresses should also be of high-quality material like laces, satin, and silk that drape over the body well. Think light and flowing skirt. Mini, midi, or maxi? An A-line mini is playful, but midi skirts always exhibit sophistication. The hemline should be high enough to be appropriate but low enough to be comfortable for a semi-formal event. A flared design flatters all female body shapes.
- High tea shoes- Strappy heels and stilettos compliment every feminine body shape well. You should wear wedges or block heels in case of an outdoor tea event. Ensure your heels are also comfortable. You may have to be on your feet for a while, depending on the occasion.
- High tea pantsuits- Pantsuits with floral prints are a very timeless look for high tea. Keep it chic, soft, and feminine. Colors like off-white and pastel shades are very flattering for most skin complexions.
- High tea accessories- Wear accessories to accentuate your outfit of choice. Keep your jewelry pieces classic and simplistic; for example, wear some pearls, especially if the rest of your look is already bold. Besides jewelry, you can also spice up your look with gloves, headpieces, hats, and sunglasses for an outdoor event. If you have to carry a bag, always go with a small clutch purse.
Can you wear pants to high tea?
Fortunately, women in modern times do not have only to wear dresses. Pants are an excellent option for high tea events. A soft and well-fitted pair of pants will go well with fitted tops, chiffon blouses, and cardigans, complemented with dress heels for a modern, stylish look. You can also wear jumpsuits with feminine silhouettes that drape the body elegantly.
Tea party bridal shower
Theme parties never go out of style. Bridal shower tea parties are the way to go if you want a simple but elegant and sophisticated way to celebrate a bride to be. Though tea parties are traditionally quite intimate, bridal shower tea parties can also be grand.
Bride-to-be: You can never go wrong with a floral dress, strappy heels, classic jewelry, and in the spirit of the high tea theme, add a small hat or fascinator and some dainty wrist-length gloves. You can also wear a white or off-white dress or a bold color like scarlet red.
Bridal party: Keep it simple and elegant. As a guest, avoid wearing white unless the bride-to-be says so. Pastel and bold colors are appropriate for a bridal shower. You can also rock a jumpsuit or a midi skirt with a billowy top. Layering a soft cardigan over a strapless dress is also a very chic look. Do not wear an all-black outfit to an afternoon tea bridal shower.
Tea party gloves
Gloves will make your outfit look fancier and grand. They can be wrist or elbow length. Some of the best materials for Tea party gloves are satin, silk, lace, or leather.
There is no wrong way to wear satin, silk, or lace gloves. They are all feminine and breathable, ensuring you’re comfortable wearing gloves in the afternoon sun. Whichever fabric you choose depends on personal taste. Alternatively, you can match your gloves to your dress fabric for a coordinated look. Another style tip, do not match your gloves to your shoes unless it’s black.
Silk and satin gloves are a more modern choice while wearing lace is a timeless classic.
Also, make sure your gloves are well-fitted to your hands. There are also those lined with non-slip material. Baggy gloves will be a nuisance and very uncomfortable.
Leather gloves are more functional during a winter tea party. It would be best if you always went for color with winter gloves for a modern look. Try blues, reds, and neutral or nude shades.
Elbow-length gloves: These are more formal and best worn with a sleeveless dress. If you go for elbow-length, satin, or silk material looks more elegant. Long black silk gloves with a little black sleeveless dress is an ageless style.
Wrist-length gloves: Wrist gloves are my favorite because they are very versatile. They look great in any fabric, including leather, for a winter tea party. They also come in a variety of designs; finger-less and with fringe designs. These gloves are also much easier to take off because, Custom Patches, you have to remove your gloves before service.
Tea party hats
Hats and headpieces for high tea events are statement pieces. The right headpiece can make a statement out of the most basic dresses. Headpieces come in many shapes and styles to suit face shape and fashion sense. You can wear wide-brimmed sun hats or simple cloches. Other headpieces include; fascinators, crowns, or hair flowers.
Luckily, the tea party traditions have no restrictions on hat sizes; however, it needs to be practical to wear and move around. One of the things to consider when buying a hat is your height. If you are short, then the top of the hat needs to rise upwards to create the height illusion. While if you’re tall, something with more width may be more suitable.
If you want to make your hat even more special and make you stand out from the crowd, consider adding some customized accessories such as custom patches, custom pins, and more. These customized products can be designed and crafted to fit the theme of the tea party and your preferred style, and are unique enough to make you stand out from the crowd with ease.
How to Wear Fascinators
Traditionally, you should wear fascinators on the right side of the head. This rule comes from when a male partner would stand on the woman’s left side to protect her from carriages passing by, and wearing the fascinator on the right made it easier to converse with her beau.
Nowadays, you can wear a fascinator on any side, but it should sit on the side with a parting. It allows you to show more of your hair.
Placing your fascinator at the top front of the head is also a flattering style.
Another thing to consider is, smaller fascinators look much better on shorter hairstyles. You can opt for medium-sized fascinators for loose hairstyles, while large fascinators will work best for hair down.
Lastly, the color. The color of your fascinator is essential for your overall look. You can match your fascinator with anything else you have worn; your bag, shoes, jewelry, or dress. We recommend choosing a color that matches your clothing or a similar shade or going for an accent color if your dress has more than one color. You can also do color combinations like black and red or blue and yellow.
Your hair color may also help you decide on a fascinator color. Blonde or lighter hair will look great with warm and pastel shades like coral, lilac, whereas darker hair goes well with bright colored fascinators like pink, reds, blue. Redheads will look stunning with neutral and natural tones like beige, nude, or cream fascinators.
Flower crowns and headbands will make you look delicate or boho chic.
For men, a fedora, trilby, newsboy hat and, Panama hat completes a smart casual masculine look for high tea.
The fedora and trilby hats are versatile and can be worn down or dressed up depending on the occasion. Whether you’re wearing a suit or an unbuttoned shirt with jeans, these two hats are iconic for high tea.
The Panama hat is smart casual because they make the hats from straws or palm leaves. They are best for an outdoor summer high tea occasion. This hat also goes well with shades of blue and brown due to its khaki color.
The newsboy hat is also a classic hat for a less conventional occasion. These hats come in dense fabric such as tweed, cotton, or wool for extra warmth and comfort, making them great for a winter event.
You can wear a top hat for a more traditional and classic formal event. We recommend you wear a top hat with a three-piece suit for that complete Victorian look.
Tea party hairstyles
Your hairstyle should be polished, and always try to match it with your outfit. There are so many hairstyles suitable for high tea depending on length and curl pattern. Put up your hair in one of these classic up-dos such as a chignon, French twist, and accessorize with a fascinator. If you have short hair, you can always slick it back straight. Afro hairstyles for tea parties have also gained popularity in the most recent years.
These are hairstyles that hold your hair up. Up-do styles are super classy. You can also wear your up-dos. in any position; either side, high top, down low, or center middle. If you position your bun on the left or right side, you should set the opposite side’s fascinator. Also, the length of your hair dictates how chunky or tall your up-do will be. Hair up-dos are also a favorite for the royal family. These hairstyles get to show off some collar bone and ear and neck jewels.
Tighter up-dos make the hair look thicker and fuller.
Messy bun: A messy bun is flattering for short and medium length hair and women with very curly hair patterns. It is also great for summer occasions and more casual settings.
Hair down styles
Hair down styles are very flirty and fabulous for a more informal high tea. You can let your hair fall as it is, straighten it or add thicker or looser curls. You can adorn these hairstyles with unique headbands, fascinators, and smaller hats.
- Mermaid braid: Mermaid braids look so much better with flowers woven through the braid, giving you a whimsical boho look.
- Pixie cut: You can accessorize your pixie cut with a delicate headband for high tea.
- Natural afro hair:
Tea party outfit ideas
Whether you’re attending a grand or laid-back high tea event, we have a few ideas compiled for more inspiration.
- A floral midi dress for a feminine look.
- Bold colors such as yellow, red, blue are timeless.
- A modest short dress of reasonable length for a sunny afternoon tea.
- Wear a pantsuit if you want a modern and sophisticated look.
- A lace and tulle dress for a delicate look.
- Bold prints and patterns on a dress, skirt with a top, or jumpsuit is great for a stylish look.
- If you are trendy and risk-taker, color blocking is the way to go.
- A classic two-piece or three-piece suit with loafers for a formal high tea themed event.
- Smart casual look with no tie.
- A smart casual look with well-fitted jeans.
- Pastel and bright colors and patterns are also high tea appropriate, making the outfit classic yet contemporary.
Afternoon tea attire in winter
If you’re used to sunny tea parties, finding a winter outfit may be a bit troubling. Here’s how to pull out a winter tea party attire and still maintain class and elegance.
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- Dress: If you still want to maintain a feminine look, go for longer and fuller dresses with heavier fabrics and long sleeves. Darker hues like burgundy and navy blue are lavish for tea parties in the winter or fall season.
- Outer layer: Depending on how cold it is, you have options from a blazer to a faux fur coat. The trendy hooded wrap coats or frocks keep you warm and chic during such an occasion.
- Shoes: If the weather is wet and rainy, you should go for a pair of ankle or knee-high heeled boots.
- Tights: Wearing tights is optional but also allowed. You can wear opaque or transparent tights to keep your legs warm from the cold breeze.
- Gloves: Gloves more than an accessory during winter. Leather or similar fabrics with wool lining are best for winter.
When coming up with your tea party outfit, make sure you adhere to the recommended dress-code in terms of the occasion, invitation requests, and location. Despite the conservative practices of high tea, you’re allowed to have fun with fabrics, colors, patterns, and designs to give you a unique look. Luckily, our fashion guide will help you create an appropriate, fashionable look for high tea incorporated with your fashion taste.