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Tea Party Attire: How Do You Dress for a Tea Party?

Tea parties are an elegant way to celebrate and come with their own set of rules for etiquette and attire. Whether you are going to a venue for tea or going to a party hosted at a home, making sure you are dressed appropriately can be a sure-fire way to impress your host and all those attending. 

Tea party attire is usually smart casual. The tea party dress code is somewhere between business-casual and casual. It is always a good idea to ask your host for the dress code before attending as some tea parties call for more formal wear. 

Understanding the dress code and etiquette of a tea party will make sure that you can enjoy this special occasion without worrying about whether or not you or your tea party outfits are breaking any rules. Make sure you are aware of what your host might be expecting, and you’ll be on your way to having a great time at tea. 

What Should I Wear to a Tea Party?

Depending on what type of tea party you will be attending, dress codes can vary. Smart casual will be the standard dress code you will need to adhere to more often than not. Unfortunately, a quick search online of smart casual attire will crop up with different opinions on what the dress code means.

To get you looking good for your next tea party, here are some general rules to follow for dressing smart casual:

Tea Party Attire For Men

Find outfits that fall somewhere between formal and casual. Usually, a collared shirt is a good choice for this type of attire, but a tie is unnecessary.

Try pairing a sport coat with a patterned button-down or classic white shirt. A nice pair of dress slacks will do great with some more casual types of footwear like loafers.  Even a dark pair of smart jeans can be a wonderful choice when worn with a navy sport jacket.

Tea Party Outfits For Women 

There is a little more wiggle room for women dressing smart casual. For dresses, always try to find a piece where the bodice is high enough to be appropriate. A tea party is not the time to show too much skin. This doesn’t mean super conservative. Striking a balance between appropriate and comfortable is what smart casual is all about. 

Luckily for women, there are so many beautiful floral prints, fun prints, and color choices out there. From light colors and pastels, to unique colors, you’re bound to come up with some great options for a tea party dress.

Romantic long skirts, some pretty ballet flats, and a top in pastel colors can create feminine looks perfect for garden parties or indoor afternoon tea parties.

A tea party invitation can be the perfect time to break out your fancy dresses. If you’ve been dying to wear a formal dress, you’ll feel comfortably elegant even if it’s not a super formal event.

Try pairing a strapless summer maxi dress with a matching cardigan and low heels for a look even the Queen of England would approve of!

A nice pair of dress pants paired with a blouse that is not too flashy, but still comfortable, is another smart approach to tea time attire.

These are just some general looks that you can easily take and make your own. There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to smart casual, and that can add a lot of freedom to your look, but can also cause some confusion.

As a general rule, you can always dress as if you are attending a work party, still business appropriate but not too stuffy.

To help thin out your options, here are some definite no go’s for smart casual:

  • No Sneakers – Even though this look is meant to be comfortable, try and avoid your running shoes no matter how well they go with your look.
  • T-Shirts – You might get away with pairing a solid color tee under a blazer, but try and avoid these comfy tops to abide by a smart casual dress code.
  • Shorts – The weather might be hot, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with shorts, even if you’ve been invited to a garden party. While some looks for men and women can spruce up this summertime classic, generally speaking, you should avoid shorts. 
  • Sportswear – Women might be able to get away with a solid colored pair of leggings, but overall anything that you could hit the gym with should be left at home for less functional attire.

Tea Party Accessories: How Do You Dress for a Tea Party Tips

Accessories can give you a chance to express your personal style, while still sticking to a tea party theme. These accessory tea party outfit ideas can really add some individuality to your already classy look:

  • Add your favorite vintage jewelry to spice up a plain top
  • Lace parasols can be a fun accessory that can provide great shade, especially if you’ll be enjoying a garden party outside midday
  • Bring along a small clutch or a summer wicker bag to hold your essentials
  • Don’t forget the sweet tiny tea hats, called fascinators to complete your outfit

Is There a Difference Between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?

There are a lot of terms floating around that all have to do with tea parties. When it comes to the kind you might need to dress up for, that usually means afternoon tea. It might seem surprising, but historically high tea was meant more for the working class and was less about the formality of the event and more about the table which it would take place.

Here is a quick historic overview of these two terms:

High Tea

This tea time usually took place around dinner and was meant almost to replace supper. Its name derives from the type of table where you would have high tea, usually the same table you would eat dinner.

Which, for most people, was higher than the coffee table in the living room (which is where you might have low tea). This type of tea also usually consisted of more substantive fare, think fewer tea sandwiches and more entree options. 

While most people think that a high tea party would be a formal affair, in reality, the proper term is afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea

Usually, you imagine this type of tea when you think of a tea party. Afternoon tea was usually a multiple course affair consisting of small finger foods that would bide your appetite until dinner.

This type of tea was usually taken at around 4 pm, between lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea was also known as “low tea” because it was usually taken at a lower style table in a room meant for entertaining. 

So if you’re wondering: Is afternoon tea a meal? You’ll find that it’s more of a snack.

Today these terms get thrown around interchangeably. Even other terms like cream tea or royal tea can add even more to the confusion. More often than not, these terms are used to define what type of fare will be served.

Tea time is usually meant to give you something small to help get through the lull between lunch and dinner. 

If you are worried you don’t know what type of tea party you are attending, you can always ask the host. If all else fails, go with a smart casual look, and you won’t be disappointed. 

Some Etiquette Tips for a Tea Party

Other than attire, you might be wondering what different types of tea party etiquette you might need to know before you sit down and enjoy the party. 

Here are some extra tips to help you get through the party without getting scolded by the host:

Can I Dunk A Biscuit Into My Tea?

While it may seem like a tasty way to enjoy the delicious food in front of you unless you are in the comfort of your own home, you should never dunk anything other than your spoon into your tea. 

Is There a Specific Way to Butter A Scone? 

There is, unfortunately, a lot of debate on this one. Depending on where you have your party, there may be some pretty stubborn views on this matter. Butter first, then jam? Or jam then butter? This usually won’t be an issue as tea parties these days aren’t as strict as you might think. If you are worried, always look to your host and mimic their actions. This is an excellent strategy if you don’t know what to do. 

Should I Hold My Pinky Up? 

This is a common misconception about tea parties. While yes, they are meant to be fancy affairs, they arent as stuck up and stuffy as popular media likes to portray them. There is no need to stick your pinky out with each sip or tea. 

Is There a Specific Way To Eat a Scone? 

Die-hard tea party attendees may say that the proper way to enjoy a fresh scone is to pick it apart piece by piece and individually butter each segment before enjoying it. This rule is not as concrete as some might lead you to believe. 

While it is true that in times past, not adhering to this type of behavior would land you some frowns in the room, nowadays, you can split your scone down the middle and butter to your heart’s content without any objection. 

Now You’re Tea Party Ready

So now you know the proper tea party attire and a few etiquette tips, you’re set to have a great time at your first tea party. These types of affairs are meant to be light and fun, so don’t let a dress code or etiquette get in the way of that.

As long as you are abiding by a general smart casual dress code and are adhering to good manners, you should have no problems at your next tea party.

And when all else fails…follow your host!

If you love tea as much as I do, pin this Tea Party Attire post to your favorite tea-loving Pinterest board and pass it on for others to enjoy! Pinkies up!

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Dress for a Tea Party
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