Exploring High Tea Attire: A Comprehensive Guide






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High tea is a classic English tradition that has been celebrated for centuries. It is a formal afternoon tea that is typically served between 3 pm and 5 pm, and is often accompanied by elegant finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones. High tea attire refers to the dress code that is appropriate for this type of event. It is customary for guests to dress in smart casual or formal semi-formal attire, depending on the occasion and venue. High tea attire can vary depending on whether you are attending a traditional, formal high tea or a more relaxed, modern version of the event. Understanding the proper dress code for high tea is essential to convey respect for the tradition and make sure your outfit is suitable for the occasion. In this article, we will explore what high tea attire entails, so you can be sure to dress appropriately and make a good impression at your next high tea event.

What is High Tea?

High tea is a British tradition that began in the 18th century and has since spread to other parts of the world. It was originally a meal for the working class who would have it after work, around 6 pm, as a way to stave off hunger until dinner. Today, high tea has become more of an elegant social affair, often reserved for special occasions such as weddings or birthdays. High tea is typically served in the late afternoon or early evening and consists of a variety of small, savory bites and sweet treats accompanied by tea.

The History of High Tea

High tea originated in England during the Industrial Revolution when workers needed sustenance after long days at work. It was usually served at a high table and included hearty dishes like meats, pies, and breads. Wealthier families also adopted this mealtime but added more luxurious foods like cakes and pastries along with their favorite teas.

What to Expect at High Tea

When attending high tea, expect to find an array of small sandwiches filled with delicacies like cucumber or egg salad along with bite-sized quiches or savory tarts. The sweet portion might include scones paired with clotted cream and jam; macarons; mini cupcakes; cookies; fruit tarts; chocolate truffles among others.

How to Dress for High Tea

As much as dressing up depends on one’s preference it’s important to note that there are some general guidelines on what attire is appropriate for high tea events depending on its formality level:

Formal Attire

For formal events such as weddings or fancy celebrations hosted in five-star hotels where elegance should be maintained throughout the event— men can opt for suits paired with either bow ties or neckties while women can choose dresses that are calf-length or longer accompanied by heels preferably closed-toe pumps.

Semi-Formal Attire

For semi-formal events such as birthday parties or high tea events in more relaxed settings— men can wear a blazer with slacks and a dress shirt while women can opt for dresses that are knee-length or longer along with either closed-toe pumps or flats if preferred.


Accessories play an important role in completing the high tea attire. Women can accessorize their outfit with a hat, fascinator, gloves, jewelry, and clutch bags among others. Men should choose accessories like pocket squares for their suits and ties according to their preference.

The dress code of any event is important since it sets the tone for how guests should approach the event; at High Tea events formality is key but always remember to add your personal touch to stand out.

Understanding the History of High Tea Attire

As high tea became a more formal and elaborate affair, so did the attire worn to these events. Understanding the history of high tea attire can help you make informed decisions when choosing what to wear to your next high tea event.

The Origins of High Tea Attire

The origins of high tea attire can be traced back to the Victorian era in England. During this time, there was a strict dress code for social events, and high tea was no exception. Women were expected to wear long dresses with modest necklines and sleeves that covered their arms.

The Evolution of High Tea Attire

As time went on, high tea became less formal and more relaxed. This led to changes in what people wore to these events. Women began wearing shorter dresses that showed off their ankles, while men started opting for suits instead of morning coats or frock coats.

During this time period, hats also became an important accessory for women attending high tea events. Wide-brimmed hats adorned with flowers or feathers were popular choices.

Formal vs Informal High Tea Attire

High tea events can range from very formal occasions held at five-star hotels to more casual gatherings held at someone’s home. Depending on the formality level of the event, different attire may be appropriate.

Formal High Tea Attire

For formal high teas such as those held at luxury hotels or exclusive country clubs— men should wear tailored suits paired with either bow ties or neckties while women should opt for elegant dresses that are calf-length or longer accompanied by heels preferably closed-toe pumps; gloves would also be appropriate accessories depending on personal preference.

Semi-Formal High Tea Attire

For semi-formal occasions like bridal showers or afternoon teas hosted in less luxurious settings—men can wear blazers paired with slacks and dress shirts while women have some flexibility choosing between knee-length dresses along with closed-toe pumps or flats as preferred.

Modern High Tea Attire

In modern times, high tea attire has become more creative and personal. People are encouraged to express their own sense of style while still adhering to the formal or informal guidelines of the event. Here are some tips on how to modernize your high tea attire:

Add a Pop of Color

If you’re attending a semi-formal or casual high tea event, consider adding a pop of color to your outfit. This could be through bold accessories like statement necklaces or bright shoes.

Mix and Match

Don’t be afraid to mix and match different patterns and textures in your outfit. A floral dress paired with a plaid blazer can create an interesting contrast that’s both stylish and unique.

Keep it Comfortable

High tea events can be long affairs, so it’s important to choose clothing that is comfortable yet stylish at the same time. Consider wearing flats instead of heels if you’ll be standing for long periods of time, or opt for dresses made from breathable materials like cotton or linen.

Dressing Etiquette for High Tea Parties

High tea parties are elegant and sophisticated events that require appropriate dressing. Dressing etiquette is an important aspect of high tea parties as it indicates respect to the host and shows that you have put effort into your appearance. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to dress appropriately for high tea parties.

Consider the Occasion

The first thing to consider when choosing what to wear for a high tea party is the occasion or theme of the event. For example, if you’re attending a garden party, you may want to opt for floral prints or pastel colors.

Understand the Formality

The formality level of a high tea party will also dictate what you should wear. If it’s formal, dressy attire is expected; however, if it’s informal then smart casual dressing would be more appropriate. Always check with the host/hostess beforehand so that you can gauge how formal or informal they expect their guests’ attire.

Choose Appropriate Clothing

When selecting clothing items, avoid anything too revealing such as low-cut tops or short skirts/dresses as this may not be considered appropriate at formal events like High Tea Parties. Opt instead for modest dresses with sleeves (if possible), trousers paired with blouses and smart jackets where necessary but always remember less is more especially when considering accessories.

Accessorize Appropriately

Accessories play an important role in completing your outfit at any event but make sure they match your clothing style and complement each other well; here are some tips:


Hats are traditional accessories worn by women in High Tea events— wide-brimmed hats adorned with flowers, feathers or ribbons add elegance whereas fascinators which have become popular in recent years can add whimsicality while still maintaining formality standards.


Closed-toe pumps are generally accepted footwear options since sandals tend not to meet formality requirements; however certain open-toe heels can also be appropriate depending on the formality level expected.


Clutch bags are a popular choice for High Tea events as they provide an elegant touch to your outfit; they should be small enough to carry by hand and preferably match the color of your shoes.


Jewelry is a great way to add some sparkle to your outfit, but avoid wearing anything too flashy or oversized. Stick with simple pieces like stud earrings, delicate necklaces or bracelets that complement your outfit without overpowering it.

Formal vs Informal Dressing Etiquette

High tea parties can range from formal events held in luxury hotels or exclusive country clubs where elegance and sophistication are expected throughout the occasion. On the other hand, there are also informal high tea parties held at someone’s home where smart-casual attire may suffice. Here’s how you can dress appropriately for each type of event:

Formal High Tea Parties

For formal high tea parties like those held in luxury hotels— men should wear tailored suits paired with either bow ties or neckties while women should opt for elegant dresses that are calf-length or longer accompanied by heels preferably closed-toe pumps.

Informal High Tea Parties

For informal high tea parties such as those hosted at someone’s home—men can wear blazers paired with slacks and dress shirts while women have some flexibility choosing between knee-length dresses along with closed-toe pumps/flats as preferred.

Dress Codes for Different Occasions: High Tea Attire for Afternoon Tea, Garden Tea, and High Tea Events

High tea events can take on different forms depending on the occasion or theme. It’s important to understand the dress code for each type of event so that you can dress appropriately. Here’s a comprehensive guide on high tea attire for afternoon tea, garden tea, and high tea events.

Afternoon Tea Attire

Afternoon teas are typically held in upscale hotels or restaurants and are less formal than high teas. Guests are expected to wear smart casual clothing that is comfortable yet stylish; here are some tips:


Women should opt for knee-length dresses paired with either closed-toe pumps or flats as preferred; avoid anything too revealing like plunging necklines or short hemlines.


Trousers paired with a blouse/shirt topped with a light jacket/blazer create an elegant yet comfortable outfit option— make sure they fit well and choose quality fabrics like cotton/silk/linen.


Accessories should complement your outfit without being too flashy. Small clutch bags or cross-body bags along with delicate jewelry such as stud earrings, pendant necklaces among others would suffice.

Garden Tea Attire

Garden teas tend to be held outdoors in beautiful gardens where guests can enjoy nature while sipping their tea. The dress code is usually more relaxed than afternoon/high teas but still requires some level of formality; here’s what you should wear:

For women, flowy dresses made from lightweight materials such as chiffon/cotton accompanied by either sandals/flats/wedges would be perfect— aim at choosing dresses that have floral prints/patterns since they match the garden setting perfectly.

Trousers made from linen/cotton paired with blouses/tops tucked into them along with espadrilles/sandals make a great garden tea outfit choice.

High Tea Event Attire

High tea events tend to be more formal than garden teas and afternoon teas. They are usually held in luxury hotels or exclusive country clubs where guests are expected to dress in formal attire; here’s what you should wear:

High Tea Attire for Men: What to Wear and What to Avoid

High tea events are not just for women; men can also attend these elegant occasions. However, dressing appropriately for high tea events can be a challenge. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what men should wear and avoid when attending high tea events.

Choose the Right Suit

High tea events require formal attire, and a well-tailored suit is the perfect option. When choosing a suit, here are some tips to keep in mind:


Choose quality fabrics that are breathable such as wool or cotton blends—this will help you stay comfortable throughout the event.


Stick with traditional colors like navy blue, black or grey—these colors work well for formal occasions like high teas.


Make sure your suit fits well; it should not be too tight or too loose. A well-fitting suit looks more elegant than an ill-fitting one.

Shirts and Ties

When choosing shirts and ties to pair with your suit at high tea events consider the following:


Opt for white or light-colored dress shirts made from cotton/silk/linen—these fabrics breathe easily thus keeping you comfortable throughout the event—if opting for patterned shirts choose simple ones with small prints/patterns that don’t overpower your outfit.


Ties provide an opportunity to add some color/texture to your outfit but always remember less is more when matching them with suits/shirts; aim at choosing simple ties made from silk/cotton in solid colors/patterns that complement your outfit without overpowering it.


Choosing appropriate footwear is important in


What is considered appropriate high tea attire for women?

For women, high tea attire typically involves a dress or skirt that falls at or below the knee, paired with a blouse or dressy top. Shoes should be comfortable, but dressy, such as heels or nice flats. Hats or fascinators are also commonly worn, but not required. Overall, aim for a polished and elegant look while still being comfortable enough to enjoy your tea and treats.

Can men wear jeans or casual clothing to a high tea event?

No, high tea is a more formal affair, so men should avoid wearing jeans or casual clothing. A suit and tie is always a safe bet, but if the event is less formal, a jacket and dress pants with a dress shirt and tie would be appropriate. Like women, men should aim for a polished and put-together look.

Are there any specific colors or patterns to avoid when selecting high tea attire?

It’s generally best to avoid overly bright or garish colors and patterns, such as neon, animal prints, or graphic designs. Instead, opt for more subdued and classic colors and patterns, such as muted pastels, florals, or simple stripes. Of course, it’s often best to check the dress code or theme of the high tea event to make sure your attire fits in with the overall aesthetic.

Is it necessary to wear gloves as part of high tea attire?

While gloves were traditionally a part of high tea attire, they are not necessary in modern times. However, if you choose to wear gloves, they should be lightweight and coordinate with your outfit. Remember to remove them before eating or drinking, though, as it’s considered rude to do so while wearing gloves.

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