High Tea Attire: What To Wear + Outfit Ideas

High tea is a refined British tradition that calls for an elegant and sophisticated dress code. Choosing the right attire for a high tea event or tea party can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

With some key guidelines on what to wear, you’ll look perfectly poised for your special occasion.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about high tea attire, from the origins of high tea to modern dress codes and outfit ideas for every season and occasion.

What is High Tea?

High tea originated in 19th century England as a light evening meal typically eaten between 5 and 7 pm. It was a break for the working classes between dinner and supper.

The “high” in high tea comes from the height of the tables used, contrasting the shorter tables used for afternoon tea earlier in the day.

Today, the term “high tea” is used interchangeably with “afternoon tea” and refers to a mid-afternoon meal accompanied by tea, delicate sandwiches, scones, and pastries. It’s an occasion marked by graceful femininity and refined style.

The Origins of High Tea Fashion

In its early days, high tea attire strictly followed the formal dress code of the time. Ladies wore floor-length gowns often made of rich fabrics like silk, velvet, and lace.

It was an opportunity for noble women to show off rare and expensive garments. Hats and gloves were essential accessories.

Over time, the high tea dress code relaxed as wearing formal attire during the day became less common.

But the tradition of “dressing up” for high tea remained. Today’s high tea fashion allows for more varied and creative options while retaining a sense of sophistication and polish.

Modern High Tea Attire for Women

The high tea dress code today is an intermingling of classic and contemporary style.

While jeans and flip flops are still too casual, there’s lots of flexibility. Here are some modern guidelines to keep in mind:

Styles to Consider

  • Dresses: Knee-length, midi or maxi sundresses or dressy sheath dresses are perfect choices. Opt for florals, stripes, or solid colors.
  • Skirts: A-line, pleated, or pencil skirts paired with a nice blouse or sweater set the tone. Knee-length or midi lengths are best.
  • Blouses: Choose a delicate blouse with feminine details like ruffles, a bow, or lace accents. Pair with a skirt or dress pants.
  • Trousers: Slacks, crops, or ankle pants look sharp when dressed up with the right blouse and footwear.
  • Sets: Skirt sets, pant suits, or sweater sets convey traditional high tea elegance.
  • Jumpsuits: Dressy jumpsuits and rompers with delicate details can also work. Steer clear of casual styles.

Styles to Avoid

Stay away from these too casual options:

  • Jeans or denim of any kind
  • Leggings, joggers, athletic pants
  • Revealing necklines or hemlines
  • T-shirts, tank tops
  • Sweatshirts, hoodies
  • Flip flops, sneakers, sporty shoes
  • Anything too tight, sheer, ripped or distressed

Colors, Prints & Fabrics

Look for these refined and feminine options:

  • Solid neutrals like cream, ivory, tan, light pink, navy, grey
  • Subtle pastels like powder blue, lavender, pink
  • Small floral prints
  • Polka dots, pinstripes, gingham
  • Lightweight fabrics like linen, eyelet lace, chiffon
  • Luxurious fabrics like silk or satin for dresses

Shoes & Accessories

Elevate your outfit with:

  • Kitten heels or block heel pumps
  • Ballet flats, loafers, or oxfords
  • A structured handbag or small clutch
  • Dainty jewelry like pearls, crystals, or metal
  • A floral hair clip or headband
  • Opaque tights in cooler weather
High Tea Shoes & Accessories

Choosing the right shoes, handbag, jewelry and hosiery pulls the whole high tea outfit together.

High Tea Attire and Dress Code By Season

The seasonal weather is an important factor when planning high tea attire. Here are some seasonal outfit ideas for high tea:

Spring & Summer Time High Tea Outfits

The warmer months call for:

  • Fabrics: Lightweight cotton, linen, eyelet lace, chiffon
  • Colors: Pastels, brights, pinks, corals, yellows, greens, sky blue
  • Patterns & Prints: Florals, polka dots, stripes, gingham
  • Styles: Sundresses, day dresses with short sleeves, rompers, blouses with skirts, dressy shorts
  • Shoes: Ballet flats, lace-up oxfords, heeled sandals

For example, a chiffon floral sundress with ballet flats or a linen shift with T-strap sandals.

Autumn & Winter Time High Tea Outfits

The cooler months ask for:

  • Fabrics: Wools, tweeds, warm knits, velvet
  • Colors: Blacks, navys, greys, wines, winter whites, metallics, rich jewel tones
  • Patterns & Prints: Hounds tooth, herringbone, plaid
  • Styles: Dresses, skirts, or pants with long sleeves, blouses under sweaters, wool coats
  • Shoes: Closed toe pumps, ankle booties, loafers
  • Accessories: Opaque tights, shawls, scarves

Such as a velvet shift dress with pumps or wool trousers with a ruffled blouse and blazer.

High Tea Attire By Occasion

Beyond the season, also consider the specific occasion. Here are some high tea outfit ideas tailored to certain events:

High Tea Bridal Shower

  • The bride may opt for an all-white outfit or white bridal-inspired dress
  • Guests can also wear light colors like blush pink, cream, ivory, or florals
  • Soft, feminine dresses with lace, ruffles, bows
  • Hats, fascinators, or headpieces optional

For example, an A-line midi dress in blush or a lace sheath dress for guests.

High Tea Baby Shower

  • The mom-to-be can highlight her bump in a stretchy wrap dress
  • Guests should avoid dark colors and instead opt for brights or pastels
  • Florals, midi dresses, skirts with blouses, rompers

Such as a pastel floral maternity dress for mom and a v-neck blouse with pink midi skirt for guests

High Tea Birthday Celebration

  • The birthday girl wears a stand-out dress in a bright, bold color or print
  • Guests also have more flexibility to embrace colors, prints, and unique styles
  • Embellished dresses, two pieces, jumpsuits

For instance, the guest of honor could wear a bright printed cocktail dress; bold colors for guests are welcome too.

5 Perfect High Tea Outfits

Here are five complete high tea outfit examples from dresses to shoes:

1. Floral Midi Dress

A vibrant floral midi dress exudes feminine charm. Pair it with nude heels and a clutch for garden party elegance.

blue floral spaghetti strap midi dress with nude heels
img – showmeyourmumu.com

2. Checks & Pearls

Crisp gingham pants, a ruffled top, and pearl accessories radiate retro high tea aesthetic.

img – prettylittlething.co.il

3. The Modern Jumpsuit

A sleeveless lace jumpsuit with block heels puts a modern spin on high tea style.

Model wearing black wide leg lace jumpsuit with black block heel sandals

4. Retro Sundress

A voluminous 50s-style sundress with ballet flats channels vintage high tea fashion.

Model wearing yellow 50s style sundress with thin straps and full skirt

5. Dressy Separates

Crisp white eyelet lace top, full midi skirt, and pink heels look gorgeously girly.

Model wearing white eyelet lace crop top with longpink tulle midi skirt and pink strappy heels

High Tea Etiquette and Manners

Now that you’ve selected the perfect high tea outfit, it’s important to mind your manners to complete the elegant affair. Here are some key high tea etiquette guidelines:


  • Wait for the hostess to show you to your seat
  • Gentlemen should seat ladies before being seated themselves
  • Remain standing until all ladies at the table are seated
  • At informal teas, guests may seat themselves

Napkin Usage

  • Napkins remain folded or draped over your lap, not tucked into your shirt
  • Use your napkin to gently blot or pat (don’t rub) your mouth
  • Leave the napkin loosely folded on the table to the left or right of your plate when done

Table Manners

  • Keep elbows off the table
  • Take small, polite bites
  • Don’t speak with your mouth full
  • Pass dishes to the right, tea to the left
  • Say “no thank you” if you don’t want a dish passed to you
  • Wait to sip your tea until the hostess pours hers first

Tea Service

  • Allow your tea to cool before drinking to avoid noisy slurping
  • Hold the tea cup by pinching the handle gently between your thumb and index finger
  • Do not raise your pinky; keep it curled under the handle with your other fingers
  • Avoid stirring in circles; instead, gently move the spoon back and forth
  • Never clink your spoon against the cup
  • Place the spoon on the saucer and not the table when done stirring

Scone Etiquette

  • Break scones into small pieces with your fingers; do not use a knife
  • Add jam first, then clotted cream on top (in Devonshire), or vice versa (in Cornwall)
  • Take small bites and do not stuff large pieces in your mouth

Conversation Tips

  • Converse in a soft voice; avoid loud talking
  • Don’t discuss unpleasant, crass, or controversial topics
  • Include everyone at the table in conversation
  • Put phones away to enjoy the experience fully present

Following proper high tea etiquette demonstrates grace and respect for the host and other guests.

High Tea Attire for Men

Gentlemen attending high tea should also take care to meet the dress code. Here’s how men can look dapper and elegant:

  • A suit, dress pants, or khakis with dress shirt, tie, and sports jacket
  • Polished Oxfords or loafers; avoid sneakers or sandals
  • Coordinating pocket square optional
  • Well-groomed hair and light cologne
  • Avoid denim, hoodies, shorts, T-shirts

The key is to look smart, crisp, and put together. Bold prints and colors are better suited for the ladies at high tea.

Find Your High Tea Style

With an array of outfit ideas and options to follow high tea dress code, you can confidently choose an ensemble that makes you feel sophisticated, stylish, and ready to embrace the elegant ritual.

Review the key guidelines but also don’t be afraid to add your own touch of personality through a bright color, unique accessories, or modern silhouettes if appropriate. Focus on looking and feeling your very best.

As Coco Chanel once said: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Your grace, manners, and conversation will be what truly makes the high tea memorable, so find an outfit that gives you confidence to connect and enjoy the occasion to the fullest.

We hope this guide has shed light on how to dress for high tea today. Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions as you prep for your next special tea party! Be sure to share photos of your high tea attire as well.

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