Have you ever been invited to high tea events but were never quite sure what to wear? Or what even happens in one?
When it comes to high tea, there is much more involved than just knowing the dos and don’ts. High tea is an elegant affair, so you want to show up dressed comfortably and stylish. So, before you attend high tea events, learn what to wear to a high tea event and the basic rules of etiquette.
What is High Tea?
First, let’s clarify what we’re talking about when we say “high tea.”
High tea is a light meal typically eaten between 3 to 5 p.m., served with desserts, cakes, and light tea sandwiches. Also called afternoon tea, its origin is attributed to Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford. This afternoon tea tradition began when the Duchess started requesting tea and light sandwiches in the late afternoon to help tide over her hunger in the long hours between lunch and dinnertime.
She also invited her high society friends to join her mini-meals. The concept became popular among the elite, who loved entertaining guests in their drawing rooms. Eventually, the practice caught on among the working class as a post-lunch energy boost to keep them full until the end of the work day or while supper is being prepared.
Today, high tea is a highly-favoured theme for birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, christenings, and the like. Dining at this hour allows you to take things at a leisurely pace, maximising the joys of socialising over the pleasure of food.
You also can treat yourself and spend a little fancy afternoon in hotels and tea shops that specialise in serving high tea. Better yet, you can host your high tea party with Navarra for any occasion.
High Tea Dress Code & Fashion Guide
Fashion is important for any social event. Ignoring the dress code is like showing up late or being under-prepared for your class or work. If you are hosting or invited to a high tea function or just wondering about the perfect afternoon tea outfit, you need to consider the following details.
Dresses for High Tea
High tea presents a golden opportunity to wear dresses. Channel your inner princess and go for flowy and light dresses, such as the ones with flowing maxi skirts or midi ones.
If you want to ensure you’re wearing the proper high tea attire, stay away from anything mini or clingy. You will be seated most of the time, so make sure your high tea dress is comfortable: not too short or tight. Something that hits just above or below your knee will be perfect.
Skirts for High Tea
High tea attire doesn’t exclusively mean wearing dresses. If you’re not up for dresses, you can always go for a two or three-piece ensemble. For a fuller look, go for A-line styles or tailored pencil skirts for a figure-hugging silhouette.
If skirts or dresses are not your cup of tea (pun intended), you can go for pants or jumpsuits but stay away from denim or slacks. Bring a light cardigan too, just in case the weather becomes chilly, or the event will be held indoors in an air-conditioned room.
For prints and fabrics, anything floral, lace, or gingham will work best. When in doubt, take some cues from the designs you usually find in vintage teapots: feminine, delicate, and fun! You could never go wrong with stand-out printed skirts, embellished tank tops, or printed blouses with romantic ruffles.
Accessories for High Tea
These may be your finishing touches, but accessories can make or break your outfit. High society showed up for high tea layered in pearls, diamonds, and other precious gems, but you don’t need to do that.
Choose earrings, a necklace or a hair clip as your statement piece. You can also take a clutch or small shoulder bag with you.
For footwear, opt for comfortable flats or low to medium height wedges so you can walk around. You can also wear kitten heels and ballet flats for that effortlessly chic look.
Headwear for High Tea
Hats are a no-no for high tea. But there are more fun options that you can wear to a high tea event, such as headbands, wraps, scarves, fascinators, and slides.
If you’re going for a cute and quirky vibe, flower crowns, floral clips, and hair claws should do it.
High Tea Etiquette Tips
No Phone Zone
Socialisation is the critical point of high tea (aside from delicious food and tea). Put the scrolling on hold and keep your phone off the table. You can take it out for photo ops, but put it away before it distracts you and keeps you from mingling.
Scones are a staple in high tea, usually served with jam and cream in little pots across the table. Traditional scones for high tea are round, and you’re supposed to break them with your hands.
Do not dip them in the pots of jam and cream; scoop out small portions onto your plate and use your knife to spread them on your scone. Moreover, do not make a scone sandwich.
High tea involves three courses: finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets. For a meal with royal origins, you’d think it would call for the exclusive use of cutlery. But the sandwiches and scones are meant to be eaten using fingers.
High tea generally involves knives and spoons only. Still, some desserts require using small forks to avoid messy and sticky fingers.
Jam or Cream First?
There is still an ongoing debate over which comes first. If you put jam first and top with cream, that’s Cornish-style. Cream then jam is called Devon-style.
Queen Elizabeth II is said to go the Cornish route at Buckingham Palace garden parties in the Royal tea tent and all Royal tea parties.
The Perfect Stir
For high tea, stir gently and move the spoon back and forth from north to south. Leave the aggressive stirring at home. Do not clink the spoon on the cup; settle it down on the saucer after stirring.
Above all, Have Fun
High tea is perfect for any celebration. Sure, it calls for detailed etiquette. But do not let the rules on what to wear or how to eat overwhelm you. If anything, high tea etiquette ensures that you, your guests, and your companions enjoy tasty food while having a good time.
Grand celebrations start with the perfect venue. For reservations or assistance with planning an event, contact Navarra directly or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram for the latest advice.