Afternoon Tea Etiquette Dress Coded - Top 10 Dos & Don'ts

Afternoon Tea dress code

Afternoon Tea Etiquette Dress Coded - Top 10 Dos & Don'ts 

Afternoon Tea dress code

The Style Guide to Afternoon Tea Dress Code

Are you heading to a fun afternoon tea with your friends or having a garden tea part celebration? 

When deciding what to wear for afternoon tea, have fun with your looks! Yes, they need to be appropriate for the occasion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play with beautiful colors, fabrics or patterns to make your look unique to your personal taste. And we hope that you are able to confidently style your looks with the help of our fashion guide for what to wear to afternoon tea. So when you pick your outfit for taking tea, be sure to refer back to our afternoon tea guide with ever-changing outfit ideas for your teatime adventures! I’m sure you’re excited about it and even more excited about getting to put on a fancy frock and strut your way into the tea room. 


High Tea Attire

In America, the "high" part of "high tea" has come to mean an elegant afternoon tea. Don't be fooled by this misconception and tricked into wearing an outfit that is ornate and fancy. Instead, dress appropriately for the occasion in the following ways.

Finding a Fashionable Dress

Dresses are a wonderful choice for high tea as these styles are comfortable and fashionable. When choosing the right dress, look for a pattern that is flattering and eye-catching but stay away from anything that looks too busy. Color will also be key here, so choose shades that flatter your skin tone.

In today’s featured post, we address tea time attire. Specifically, we focus on what to wear for afternoon tea and give some tips and tricks to style a look perfectly appropriate for taking tea with the Queen, herself.

What to Wear for Afternoon Tea 

Most venues have a relaxed 'smart casual' dress code these days, so there is no need for men to wear a jacket and tie (unless otherwise specified) - trousers or smart jeans, collared shirt and clean/un-scuffed shoes are acceptable. No sportswear or trainers (sneakers).

Afternoon Tea Dress Code

What exactly is “Smart Casual?”

If you are planning to take your afternoon tea at a traditional tea locale, you will probably encounter a dress code. Generally, the attire requested for guests to adhere to for afternoon tea is “smart casual,” which falls somewhere between business casual and casual. This will usually mean no trainers, t-shirts, shorts or sportswear. And gentlemen will typically be asked to wear a collared shirt. However, they generally do not require men to wear a jacket and tie. But check your intended location ahead of time to be sure of this.

For women, a “smart casual” outfit would be something akin to that which you would wear to a garden party. For example, a tea-length dress (which unsurprisingly received its name from the garb women wore when taking tea) with a flared hem in a floral print styled with simple kitten heels would be a classic look for attending a traditional afternoon tea. Long skirts and maxi dresses offer a more modern take on afternoon tea, but are still chic and stylish. A maxi skirt like this ruffled version with jacquard details (which is SO in right now, btw) paired with a chic blazer or lovely fitted sweater is another appropriate ensemble for taking tea.

Flattering Tea Length Formals

Alternative Styles for Afternoon Tea

And though the aforementioned styles work well for afternoon tea, you don’t have to wear a dress or skirt to be “smart casual.” Dress pants or stylish slacks can provide another stylish option to wear to your afternoon tea. Just make sure they are tailored well, fit properly and are suited for the season. Then pair your dress pants with a bold blazer and ballet flats or stylish heels to create a look that is perfect for afternoon tea.

Tea Length Formal Dresses



Menswear for Afternoon Tea

Additionally, for men who plan to attend afternoon tea, a trendy, yet dapper, option can be created with simple black or gray trousers, a white collared shirt, a cardigan sweater and classic brogues to finish the look.

What Not to Wear for Afternoon Tea

Finally, it is important to keep in mind the no-no’s for afternoon tea dressing – skin-tight, see-through, too low-cut or too short. Just remember to keep the look classic and chic and you will be just fine!

Now that we have elaborated on tea time dress code, please see the fabulous outfits below intended for afternoon tea.

Style Guide: What to Wear for Afternoon Tea

Tea Dress

As the name suggests, a tea dress (also known as a tea gown) is super suitable for high tea thanks to its hemline that falls above the ankle and below the knee. Whether it's short or long-sleeved, team it with an endearing quilted cross-body bag for fashionable elegance.

High Neckline and Flared Hem

With respect to the style, make sure that the bodice of the dress is high enough to be appropriate, but low and relaxed enough to look casual. A flared hem is also cute and comfortable instead of figure-hugging designs.

Long Maxi Dress

Long, floaty maxi dresses cover you up for the occasion while making sure that you look effortlessly chic. If you have a strapless summer maxi dress that looks lovely, is a great shade and fits just right, but you're concerned about going without sleeves or straps, you could always pair the dress with a matching cardigan.

Rocking a Sweater Set

A sweater set is always a good idea for high tea because it can be paired with a skirt or pants but still looks pretty and feminine. Additionally, the sweater will help to keep you warm if the tea is being served in an air-conditioned room.

Consider Color

Make sure that your sweater set matches; don't just pair a tank top with a pretty cardigan. Stick to a color that is flattering on you and suitable for the occasion. Some good choices are:

  • Teal
  • Green
  • Berry
  • Soft rose
  • Violet

Shades of black and white are fine, but these colors may look a bit stark.

Embracing Feminine Skirts

Skirts pair nicely with sweater sets, embellished tank tops, and printed blouses. The general rule is to make sure that your skirt sits at the knee or below the knee for it to be appropriate.

Pencil Skirt

Tailored pencil skirts match the occasion quite well as they're typically considered formal. However, if your skirt is very form fitting, be sure to sit in it prior to taking tea. You don't want to have to ask your friends or family members to help you up!

Flared Hem

A safe and practical option is a standout printed skirt with a flared hem, which you can then dress up with a black shirt, blouse, or cami to make a serious style statement.

Flowing Maxi Skirt

If you prefer the girlier aesthetic, opt for a long, free-flowing maxi skirt with romantic ruffles or a sassy slit. Choose between a muted, plain version that you can dress up with a bright blouse or a patterned number that you can pair with neutrals for a classic, refined look.



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