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  • Writer's pictureAleksandra Bubnova


Afternoon tea is always an excellent opportunity to showcase one's taste and ability to look stylish. Today we will discuss the afternoon Tea dress code and the origin of tea dress.

Around the 1870s in Victorian England, women were bound by an impressive wardrobe protocol, which dictated different dresses for various everyday situations. For instance, a Victorian lady could wear one dress for lunch and had to appear in another for dinner. Of course, separate outfits were prepared for balls, guest visits, and city strolls. Amidst all this madness, women also had to find time to change into a dress for a family tea. Since the traditional afternoon tea took place in an informal setting, away from prying eyes, this dress could be less formal and rigid compared to city or ballroom attire. Something between a shawl and a ball gown, without a corset, made of lightweight fabric, with comfortable sleeves and a train – this is how the tradition of the tea dress came to be.

History of Afternoon Tea Dress

Imagine this: wearing the tea dress to dinner or, especially, when visiting someone's home was an absolute taboo. In the 1900s, the situation became a bit more relaxed – the tea dress could be worn in the evening, at home, or at gatherings with close friends. This trend continued until the 1920s when feminist activism blurred the boundaries of what was acceptable. In aristocratic and some bourgeois families, women continued to change into multiple dresses throughout the day, including dinner gowns for evening meals. However, no one wanted to bother with the tea dress protocol anymore, and times had changed.

The origin of tea dress

Initially, this attire didn't extend beyond the ladies' boudoirs, serving as déshabillé in which women would have tea in their private chambers. Later, it transitioned into a domestic category. By the late 1920s, it had become a full-fledged fashion item. The tea dress became beloved by British fashionistas, evolving into an unwavering classic of English style.

Initially, tea dresses were crafted from delicate fabrics such as muslin, silk, delicate cotton, and lace, sometimes resembling evening gowns. By the 1930s, dress design began to incorporate a charming, more daytime-appropriate floral print, which became a real trend among bourgeois urban women.

Kate Middleton wearing the Tea Dress

Today, one of the most famous fans of the tea dress is the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. Her appearances in elegant and graceful midi dresses with delicate floral patterns receive smiles of approval from millions of fans, and no one would dare to suggest that wearing such attire is an unworthy endeavor for a lady.

Afternoon Tea dress code the Tea Dress at the fashion shows

This autumn, fashion collections from various designers are filled with different variations of the classic tea dress – from traditional silhouettes at Erdem, Simone Rocha, and Givenchy to refined references to the 1930s and 1940s at Miu Miu, Loewe, and Tory Burch.

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