Tea party themes are elegant, colorful, and sophisticated. I love that the invitations have a formal style and that guests can dress up as fancy as they please. But as with any themed party, you may be unsure what to wear. While tea parties are a tasteful affair, outfits don’t need to be overly formal to still be chic and stylish.
If you’re torn on what to wear to a tea party, I’ve put together a handful of different ideas for women, men, and kids.
The Difference Between High Tea and Afternoon Tea
The main difference between high tea and afternoon tea is the food served, not the attire. Afternoon tea is traditionally more of a snack served on a lower table, like a coffee table. High tea is classically served around dinner time and at a higher table like you’d find in a dining room. Whether you’re invited to afternoon tea or high tea, all of these tea party outfit ideas will work!
What Is The Dress Code For A Tea Party?
Too often, tea parties get a reputation for being overly dressy or stuffy. This could not be further from the truth. A proper tea party is a dignified yet fun event where you should feel comfortable wearing bold colors, prints, and outfits with flirty details like puffed sleeves or a little bit of lace.
The main rules you should follow are to keep your outfit modest and avoid too-casual clothing like ripped denim or sneakers. While you may want to check with the host to confirm the dress code, the following ideas for what to wear to a tea party should cover everything from casual to semi-formal.
What To Wear To A Tea Party – Tea Party Attire for Women
These are my top suggestions for what to wear to a tea party for women. One fundamental piece of advice when choosing tea party attire is to remain modest. This isn’t the time for bandage dresses or mini skirts. Instead, use this as a chance to put your most tasteful foot forward.
Tea party attire doesn’t need to feel stuffy or plain. And you absolutely don’t need to stick to neutral colors. In fact, going with solid black may look too formal and not fit the mood. Instead, this is a great time to wear more vibrant options from your wardrobe.
Pastels are a great choice, too. These muted hues look whimsical and stylish and can be accessorized with bold pops of color. I love the look of a solid pastel dress and bright, bold shoes.
Fun & Floral Prints
Don’t think you must keep things solid if you want to wear color. Bold prints and floral patterns are perfectly acceptable as tea party attire. The key here is balance. Keep the dress style simple if the print is bold. I love to try a striking print in a soft color. Or a simple pattern with a more vivid color. I would steer clear of animal prints or a dress with wild patterns in intense colors.
I’m sure you’ve heard of maxi and midi-length dresses, and a tea party is an ideal time to wear them! These hemlines are modest but chic and look beautiful in solid colors or with floral patterns. For parties hosted in cooler spring weather, opt for a midi dress with sleeves, and embrace every extra inch of fabric in whichever gorgeous pattern or color you choose.
Feminine Airy Style Blouses
Dresses are not required for tea! Choosing a feminine blouse still creates a sophisticated appearance. Steer clear of stiff, button-down shirts in neutral colors. These can appear too serious and business-like. Instead, try fun and unique styles like sheer fabrics, lace top long sleeve, puffed sleeves, and bow necklines—the possibilities are endless. Pair blouses with skirts or pants in a coordinating fabric and color.
Skirts are a tea party option that offers lots of variety. As with dresses, you’ll want to keep hemlines more modest and the style flowy and less form-fitting. Avoid mini skirts and too-tight pencil skirts, but opt for fun, flowy silhouettes in lightweight fabrics. My favorites are pleated midi skirts in pretty pastel colors or floral skirts paired with a simple, solid-hued blouse.
Yes, pants are definitely an option for what to wear to a tea party! Again, the key here is balance. Try solid color pants with a floral blouse. Or wear pants in a vibrant color or print with a basic blouse. Avoid black dress slacks as they could look too business-like. Try to find harmony between the styles of the bottoms and the top you choose. Skinny slacks look great with flowy blouses, while wide-leg pants look more put-together when paired with a form-fitting top.
For cooler afternoons, you may want to add layers to keep warm. This is particularly true if your outfit has bare shoulders. Cardigans are a great way to keep your arms warm while adding even more flair to your ensemble. Choose complementary colors for tea party attire, and be sure to consider the length of your cardigan in relation to the length of your dress or skirt.
Knit sweaters can also add layers to your outfit without looking too casual. A long-sleeved, cotton sweater over a silky midi skirt is a stylish way to stay cozy and look chic.
Jumpsuits add a modern twist to dressy pants. Keep colors muted if the jumpsuit is all one color, and choose an overall fabric and silhouette that is appropriate for a dressy occasion. The pants portion of a jumpsuit is modest enough but still chic and stylish. For this type of party, I recommend shying away from rompers which tend to show a bit too much skin.
Bring life to your outfit with accessories. Fascinators are a great way to add more color and detail to your attire. Choose one that is tasteful and elegant and not too large. Don’t shy away from fun details like lace, feathers, or flowers. I recommend this Mesh Fascinator with Feathers for all the color options and classic style.
I also love to bring a clutch in a vibrant color to add a bright pop to any outfit. It’s a great way to keep your belongings close while adding more character to your tea party attire.
Keep jewelry understated and classic. Pearls are always a solid choice, as are simple gold or silver pieces. If you want to add a bold accessory, I recommend statement earrings. They add a touch of whimsy to an outfit without being overly large or flashy.
While you may envision your outfit with a great pair of heels, this is actually the perfect occasion to wear your most comfortable flats. Tea parties are regularly outdoors, and it’s common for women to opt for flats as grass and heels are not the best of friends. If you want a shoe with some height, try a wide heel, wedge heel, or espadrille sandals.
Consider a gorgeous pair of gloves if the event is on the fancier side. Stick with wrist or elbow length and choose silk, satin, or lace styles. Coordinate the color with the rest of your outfit and use them as another way to add personality to your overall look.
Tea Party Attire for Men
Like women, men can opt for fun prints and patterns. While a solid color button-down will absolutely work, it’s a great time to try something with a unique print like a sharp floral, sailboats, or even lobster print.
Khakis or slacks are acceptable attire for men. I recommend avoiding denim and particularly denim with rips or holes. Keep the colors light and the fabrics breezy for an effortless smart-casual look.
Sport coats, like cardigans for women, not only add warmth but also another layer of character to an outfit. While it’s great to wear all-over prints on a shirt, keep the sport coat more neutral in a solid color or muted print.
Tea Party Attire Ideas For Kids
Floral elements are ideal for tea parties. Little girls and even teens can don flower crowns to add whimsy to their outfits. Kids’ overall style should mimic what the adults wear—elevated casual styles that are tasteful but not too formal.
Gloves are fun for little girls, too! Choose gloves that fit properly and fabrics that allow their hands to breathe. This will make kids more comfortable and less likely to ditch the gloves before you even arrive.
Try a pair of suspenders to add a dash of sophistication to your little boy’s outfit. These are a relatively comfortable way to add style to a plain tea party outfit for kids.
What Not To Wear To a Tea Party
When it comes to what to wear to a tea party, these items are the no-nos. They fall into the too-casual and too-formal categories. You want to stick to outfits that are colorful, fun, and sophisticated. I recommend that you steer clear of the following:
- Ripped or stained clothing
- Jeans and tee shirts
- Outfits with too many cutouts, extra-short hemlines, or plunging necklines
- Business formal clothing in neutral colors
- Stiff or stuffy fabrics and silhouettes
- Too-fancy evening wear
Choose The Best Tea Party Attire For You
Despite having a formal reputation, tea parties are actually quite casual events. Yes, you want your attire to reflect elegance and taste, but you don’t need to be uncomfortable or feel stifled. Keep your outfit playful, colorful, and straightforward. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what to wear to a tea party. Try different colors and patterns and unique accessories. But above all, have fun dressing up!