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What to Wear to a Tea Party: A Style Guide

What to Wear to a Tea Party: A Style Guide

Tea parties, a charming tradition with roots deep in English social history, are the epitome of refined social gatherings. Whether set in a sunlit garden or a cozy living room, these events offer a splendid opportunity to showcase your style in a more whimsical, genteel fashion. Here’s your ultimate guide to choosing the perfect outfit for your next tea party.

Understanding Tea Party Basics

Tea parties can trace their origins back to the mid-17th century England, evolving significantly over the centuries. Initially exclusive to aristocracy, the advent of afternoon tea by Anna Maria Russell in the 19th century democratized this quaint social event, making it accessible to the wider public. Today, while the settings and the scale of these gatherings might have changed, the essence remains—a chance to enjoy good company over tea and treats in an elegant attire.

Choosing the Right Outfit

Garden Party

Often held outdoors amidst floral settings, garden tea parties are on the casual end of the spectrum. Opt for light, airy fabrics in pastel shades to complement the natural beauty. Floral prints, flowing dresses, and skirts are perfect. Sun hats not only add to the aesthetic but also provide protection against the heat.

High Tea

Despite its name, high tea is not as formal as one might expect—it’s a hearty meal rather than just tea. The dress code is relaxed yet neat; think semi-casual. Long dresses or modest two-piece sets are appropriate. Check if the event is indoors or outdoors to fine-tune your outfit choice.

Vintage Tea Party

Embrace nostalgia with a vintage-themed tea party. Depending on the era being celebrated (1920s flapper style, 1950s post-war chic, or Victorian elegance), your outfit should reflect the specific time period. While not overly formal, appropriate attire that fits the era’s fashion is expected.

Formal Tea Party

For a formal tea party, elevate your look with a cocktail dress or a long gown. Such gatherings call for a touch of glamour, so consider richer, subdued colors and refined patterns. Accessories like jewelry and gloves can add a sophisticated flair to your ensemble.

Accessories and More

Hats and Fascinators

Hats are not just a stylish accessory but a nod to traditional tea party attire. Consider elegant options like the Kenni Fascinator, the Blush Pink Fascinator, or the Hot Pink Fascinator with Veil. For a more pronounced statement, the Ivory Derby Hat or the creatively bold Loops & Spikes Derby Hat can be perfect choices.


Choose shoes that complement your outfit without overpowering it. Ballet flats and small heels work well for more casual settings, while higher heels might be more suitable for formal tea parties.

For the Gentlemen

Men’s tea party fashion typically includes slacks or suits for a polished look. A nice pair of dress pants paired with a collared shirt under a sweater or a vest can fit well within most tea party themes. Ties and dress shoes can add an extra touch of class.

What to Avoid

It’s important to remember that certain items are too casual or inappropriate for a tea party setting:

  • Jeans and denim are too casual.
  • Avoid overly tight or revealing clothing.
  • Black and white are generally reserved for more formal or somber occasions.

Final Thoughts

Tea parties are a wonderful occasion to dress up in a way that feels both special and fun. They offer a rare blend of social and sartorial opportunity—perfect for enjoying the company of friends in a stylish setting. When selecting your outfit, consider the theme, the setting, and the expected formality to ensure you look the part. And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the tea and company!

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