Afternoon Tea Party Attire: Dress Code, Etiquette, Tips & More

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an invitation to a delightful afternoon tea party but with no clue what attire is suitable? The struggle can be real! And if you’re anything like me, this question has probably had you rummaging through your wardrobe, unsure whether that floral dress or classic black suit fits the bill. Well, let’s spill some tea!

This guide will demystify all things related to afternoon tea party attire. We’ll dive into etiquette and key elements needed for such elegant affairs – from understanding the importance of adhering to dress codes at these events right down to choosing outfits based on different themes.

Ready for the end result? Not only will you survive any high tea invitations, but you’ll also have an amazing time! Are we all set for this adventure?

Types of Tea Parties and Their Distinct Attire

Types of Tea Parties

An afternoon tea party has its roots in British culture and history, and over the years, several types of tea parties have evolved, each with its own set of customs, including the dress code. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different tea parties and what one might consider wearing to each:

1. Afternoon Tea (Low Tea)

This is perhaps the most popular type of tea event. It traditionally takes place between 3 and 5 p.m. and features light bites like scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches, and small pastries.

Low Tea

Dressing for afternoon tea is about balancing casual with a touch of elegance. A knee-length dress, floral print midi skirt, or tailored trousers paired with a sophisticated blouse would be apt. Men might choose to wear slacks with a crisp shirt.

2. High Tea

Contrary to its name, high tea is a more substantial meal than afternoon tea. Originally served to the working class after they returned from work, it’s closer to dinner with hearty dishes alongside tea.

High Tea

Since it’s a more robust meal, the dress code is slightly more relaxed but still polished. Women might wear a smart blouse with trousers or a casual dress, and men might opt for khakis and a polo shirt.

3. Cream Tea

A simpler form of afternoon tea, cream tea typically includes just tea, scones, clotted cream, and jam.

Cream Tea

The dress code can be a bit more relaxed here, but it’s still a refined affair. A casual summer dress or blouse with a skirt might be fitting for women. Men could wear casual trousers with a light shirt.

4. Royal Tea (or Champagne Tea)

An upgraded version of afternoon tea, royal tea includes all the traditional items of afternoon tea, with the addition of a glass of champagne or another alcoholic beverage.

Royal Tea

Given the luxurious nature of this tea, dressing up a bit more is encouraged. Women might opt for cocktail dresses, and men might wear a blazer with their shirts and trousers.

5. Themed Tea Parties

Themed tea parties can range from “Alice in Wonderland” motifs to “Downton Abbey” styles. The menu and decor adhere to the theme, making it a unique experience.

Attendees should dress according to the theme. If it’s a vintage theme, for instance, women might choose dresses from the 1920s or 30s era, and men might wear suspenders and hats.

Themed Parties

While the attire may vary slightly based on the type of tea party you’re attending, the overarching theme is elegance and respect for the tradition. Whether you’re going to a high tea or a themed tea party, dressing according to the dress code demonstrates appreciation and understanding of the event’s significance.

The Afternoon Tea Party Attire and Dress Code

An afternoon tea party is more than just sipping tea and enjoying light meals typically made up of tea sandwiches or sweets. It’s a social event, an elegant affair where the dress code matters. What you wear to a tea party speaks volumes about your understanding of this tradition that originated in the UK.

A high tea, which we often call an afternoon tea today, has certain etiquette attached to it. The way one dresses for such occasions forms part of these manners; it’s not merely about looking good but respecting the customs as well.

In general rule, think smart casual when dressing for an afternoon tea party. You don’t have to wear super formal attire like what you’d wear to a wedding guest appearance, but remember: this isn’t a backyard barbeque either!

Dress Code

Finding perfect outfit ideas can be challenging without knowing key elements to consider when choosing your attire for such parties.

  • Dresses are usually favored over pantsuits; however, if you prefer trousers, then opt for tailored pants paired with a nice blouse or shirt dress. A classic black dress works, too.
  • If dresses are your go-to choice, then consider floral print midi skirts or even maxi-length ones – they bring out the chic yet laid-back vibe perfectly suitable for daytime events like these.
  • For accessories, keep them minimal and tasteful – no large dangly bracelets clanging against your teacup. Vintage jewelry pieces or family heirlooms would add character to your outfit.

For footwear, choose something comfortable and stylish, such as kitten heels or ballet flats for women, while men can opt for boat shoes or loafers. Kitten heels or ballet flats would be comfortable yet classy choices for such occasions. Men can opt for boat shoes or loafers.

Remember, dressing well is just part of the equation. It’s also about suiting up appropriately for both your environment and situation.

Choosing the Perfect Outfit for Your Afternoon Tea Party

Sipping tea and enjoying light meals typically associated with high tea parties can feel even more delightful when you’re dressed just right. Whether it’s a formal tea party or a garden-themed affair, knowing how to dress appropriately enhances the experience.

The first step in selecting your afternoon tea attire is understanding what each type of dress code means. For instance:

  • Pastels and floral prints are usually suitable for semi-formal or casual events.
  • At a formal gathering, tailored pants paired with blouses may be required.

Dresses also work wonders at such gatherings – think midi or maxi-length dresses in pretty pastels that lend an air of elegance while being comfortable enough to allow easy movement as you reach across the dinner table for those deliciously delicate sandwiches.

Garden party teas have their own unique charm, and your outfit choice should reflect both style and practicality. Floral print dresses sync well with nature’s backdrop but remember comfort, too. Opting for ballet flats over kitten heels might be wise if there will be lots of mingling in grassy areas.

Choosing The Perfect Outfit

A classic black dress works like magic if accessorized rightly – consider vintage jewelry or family heirlooms that add personality without overpowering simplicity. Don’t forget about layering options either – having a cardigan sweater handy helps manage unpredictable weather shifts often found during outdoor soirees.

A quintessential choice for any woman attending an afternoon tea party is the tea dress. Originating from Britain, where high tea originated, these dresses are not just fashionable but also practical. They’re usually midi length with floral prints or pretty pastels that embody grace and sophistication. House Beautiful suggests garden-themed styles, which often complement well with most high tea settings.

If you want to go traditional yet stylishly British, opt for tweed sets. However, if you’re looking for something less formal but still appropriate, consider blouses paired with skirts or tailored pants.

Now let’s talk accessories: ballet flats make comfortable footwear options, while kitten heels add more class without sacrificing comfort.

Wicker Darling bags, vintage jewelry pieces (like brooches), and dangly bracelets are fantastic additions that provide both style and conversation starters around the dinner table.

Tips on What Not To Wear:

Don’t forget that choosing the right outfit hinges on knowing the vibe of an event. Afternoon tea isn’t simply another mealtime; it’s a light repast usually enjoyed with exquisite teas in a refined setting.

What Not To Wear

Here are a few tips on what not to wear:

  • Avoid wearing overly casual items such as jeans or sneakers. The dress code at tea parties usually leans towards smart casual.
  • Even though it’s a party, remember to avoid overly revealing clothing. It’s better to err on the side of caution and opt for more conservative choices like midi skirts and shirt dresses.
  • Avoid overly flashy or dangly bracelets that may interfere with your tea service.

These tips will ensure that you contribute to the overall atmosphere of this elegant affair!

Men’s Attire for Afternoon Tea Parties

Men also need to put thought into their outfits when attending an afternoon tea party. If you’re bringing your husband, boyfriend, or friend, there are a few tips you can give them so that they can look sharp and meet the dress code.

Mens Attire

The line between formal and smart casual can be blurry sometimes. But let me help clarify things:

  • Shirt, blazer, and pants: For most afternoon teas, men are expected to wear something on the smarter side of casual – think collared shirts paired with tailored trousers or chinos. If the event leans towards being a more elegant affair, then add a blazer or tweed set over your shirt. Stick to solid colors or subdued patterns as they’re less distracting during sipping tea and engaging in light conversation around the dinner table.
  • Shoes: A good pair of shoes will complete any outfit – this rule applies even at high tea parties. You may want to opt for classic boat shoes if it’s a garden-themed event; otherwise, brogues would make an excellent choice.
  • Hats: Hats at tea parties aren’t just limited to fabulous fascinators worn by women – there are options available for men, too. If you fancy adding some pizzazz while also adhering to tradition, consider sporting one that complements your overall look without going overboard—after all, we’re not heading out for a derby race. However, remember that hats are usually removed at the dinner table as per etiquette. If you’re not sure about managing a hat throughout the event, feel free to skip it.
  • Accessories: Apart from your charming self and great manners for tea parties, accessories can also play an essential role in pulling together your look. A vintage wristwatch or family heirlooms like cufflinks could add subtle sophistication without being too flashy.

Men’s afternoon tea party attire is all about striking a balance between smart casual and formal. Think collared shirts with tailored trousers or chinos, solid colors or subdued patterns, and don’t forget the right pair of shoes – brogues for indoor events, boat shoes if it’s outdoors. A hat can add some extra flair to your outfit. Just remember to take it off when you’re inside as a sign of respect.

Kid’s Attire for Afternoon Tea Parties

Deciding what your children should wear to an afternoon tea party can be quite a task. But don’t fret. Here are some pointers that will help you choose the perfect outfit.

A classic look is always in style at a tea party, and this applies to kids, too:

  • For girls, think about choosing dresses with floral prints or pretty pastels that offer both comfort and elegance.
  • Boys can opt for tailored trousers paired with a collared shirt.

Ballet flats for girls and boat shoes for boys make excellent footwear choices as they are comfortable yet stylish. However, remember to avoid wearing overly fancy or uncomfortable shoes, as kids need their freedom of movement.

Kid Afternoon Tea Party

Accessories add charm to any outfit but keep it minimalistic when it comes to children’s attire at tea parties.

Vintage jewelry, such as small family heirlooms, could work well here – just make sure these accessories aren’t so precious that losing them would cause upset.

You might also want to consider including hats in their outfits; not only do they provide sun protection if the event is outdoors, but they also contribute towards achieving the ‘tea hat’ aesthetic commonly associated with formal teas.

If you’re attending an outdoor garden party during spring or summer months, then light-colored clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton should be preferred over synthetic materials. This helps keep your little ones cool while they’re sipping tea and munching on tea sandwiches.

On the other hand, if it’s an indoor event or during colder months, consider layering their outfits with a cardigan sweater to ensure that they stay warm.

Themed Afternoon Tea Parties and Corresponding Attires

Dressing up for a themed afternoon tea party is an exciting part of the experience. Each theme dictates a specific dress code, transforming every sip into an elegant affair.

Vintage tea parties are reminiscent of the times when high tea originated in the UK. To fit into this nostalgic atmosphere, think classic yet stylish. A floral dress or tweed set could be your go-to outfit choice here. Accessorize with vintage jewelry or family heirlooms, but avoid wearing overly dangly bracelets that might get in the way while you’re sipping tea.

Women can opt for kitten heels or ballet flats to maintain comfort while adding sophistication to their look. Men can choose tailored trousers paired with boat shoes and collared shirts to reflect old-world charm at its best.

Tea Party

A garden-themed afternoon tea party calls for light, breezy attire complementing nature’s hues. Floral print dresses offer an easy solution—both chic and fitting. Don’t forget about those perfect midi skirts, as they provide another suitable option too.

If it gets chilly outside, women may want to layer up with cardigan sweaters over their outfits, whereas men could wear shirt-dresses combined with some comfy loafers—the essence is casual elegance.

In the case of formal occasions like weddings where high teas serve as pre-events, dressing for the occasion becomes more crucial than ever before. Opt for a dressy jumpsuit or even a classic black dress. However, make sure to steer clear of bodycon dresses and overly revealing clothing. Again, tea parties are about elegance, not exposure.

For men, formal tea attire could mean donning a simple black suit or choosing tailored pants paired with an elegant shirt. Remember: the key is to look smart yet feel comfortable.

Look Your Best!

So, what have we learned about afternoon tea party attire?

Look Your Best

Quite a lot!

  • We’ve understood that the dress code matters. It sets the tone of the event and ensures everyone is on an even sartorial playing field.
  • We’ve discovered outfit ideas based on various themes – from garden parties to vintage soirees. Remember: your style should complement not only you but also match the vibe of these delightful gatherings.
  • We’ve also explored suitable options for women, men, and children alike. Whether it’s a classic tea dress or tailored trousers with collared shirts – dressing according to the dress code adds to our enjoyment at these events.

Nailing down your perfect afternoon tea party look isn’t just about looking fabulous while sipping tea; it’s also about respecting traditions and enjoying this elegant affair in all its glory! Dress well!

Want to see a tea party in action? Carolyn threw an afternoon tea party for her sisters and I know you’ll love all the outfit and decor inspiration!


Hi, I'm Cassie! My husband and I have a full house with three furbabies, and when I'm not spending time with them, I'm loving all things fashion, travel, and romanticizing life's little moments. I'm also a self-described book nerd, and am always on the hunt for my newest read.