What to Wear to Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British Sunday afternoon past time, for those of you who have no idea what to wear here is your guide.

You’re in England (London, perhaps) and looking for something quintessentially English to do, which you’ve decided is a better way to make the most of your visit than to take a pic at every red phone booth you see. Afternoon Tea, my dear. A time-honoured British custom, Afternoon Tea is always a delight and exciting to experience at different places. A wide array of Tea classics and modern re-imaginings dots the London Afternoon Tea landscape, and, after all, the conversation should give you as much pleasure as the dainty (yet filling) nibbles and comforting brews.

Any post on Afternoon Tea would be remiss if it failed to honour Anna, Duchess of Bedford, who introduced the concept in 1840. Tired of the long, hungering hours between lunch and dinner, she ordered that a pot of tea along with bread, butter and cake be served to her every day in the late afternoon. A popular and sociable lady she was, so her friends joined in with little coaxing and the practice became a social custom (when the art of conversation was the order of the day).

You’re here because you know all of this. But what, oh what, to wear you ask. What to wear to Afternoon Tea? I have a few humble suggestions.

There are two general themes of Afternoon Tea in London. One is, of course, classic (think Victorian, see Chesterfield’s or The Gore as examples) and the other is the modern thing (think understated fashion chic, see One Aldwych as an example).

For the classic Tea look, go for dresses in modest styles featuring floral prints, stripes, lace, velvet or silk complemented by simple jewellery and clutches with modest heels or smart flats. You could also wear blouses and skirts of similar looks as mentioned, or perhaps a lovely pair of printed trousers. This look is for having a little bit of fun and playing a wee bit of dress up if you want, but don’t go overboard – bustles and bonnets are just too far. Hats are lovely, but this outing suits a toned-down Royal Ascot look.

Here are some looks I’ve put together for some Afternoon Tea outfit inspiration:


I wouldn’t say this outfit entirely fits the ‘modest’ specifications, but it means well. Coco Chanel bag, Monteau dress, Jessica Simpson heels. Trench coat on far right is Cynthia Rowley.



Dress on left is French Connection, which will have an excellent selection of Afternoon-Tea-worthy styles. The dress on the right is Soprano, which will also have great styles.

For the modern chic, try bold, solid colours and a casual blazer. Go smart-smart casual and enjoy things like golden eggs and mini-milkshakes at places like One Aldwych (known for its Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired Afternoon Tea).

I love these looks from New York Girl Style for inspiration:


As it is England, after all, you can often dress up these looks with some tights, coats and scarves – simply wrap up and peel off inside!

Hopefully these looks have given you some inspiration for what to wear to Afternoon Tea. Remember above all though that you should enjoy yourself, so whatever you choose, make sure you feel happy, comfortable and confident! A Tea with the girls is an enjoyable experience, and the clothes you wear should contribute to the enjoyment.

Let me know what you think in comments below, or please do share your own suggests!

More from Emily Stephens

Clear Lake, Wapiti Trail, Yellowstone

Undoubtedly the most action-packed adventure Will and I have achieved to date,...
Read More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *