Particularly in the south or on military bases, the act of the formal tea is very much alive and makes it debut usually during the spring and summer months. Since few etiquette books still address this traditional favorite, follow these tips on how to dress for the occasion.
Things You'll Need
- White gloves
- Small sun hat
- Sensible sundress
- Low-heeled sandals or pumps
- Tea gift for the host
Confirm the attire of the tea first. Although it is usually noted on the invitation, call the host and ask if she expects the full formal attire, including white gloves and a hat.
Note the specifics of the event, such as the location and time, which can also help distinguish the appropriate wardrobe. For example, if the tea is being held at a banquet hall, you will likely adhere to the dress code more closely than you would if it were outside at a person's home.
Find the ideal dress for the event. A good dress for a formal tea is not cocktail or formal in nature, but is in fact a sundress. The sundress can range in color and style, but shouldn't be any shorter than knee-length. Watch the cut of the dress carefully as it should not show cleavage or be too tight. A-line styles and bright colors usually work best. Also avoid black.
Depending upon the time of day, a shawl might be appropriate. You can skip this accessory if the tea is before 6:00 p.m., although most are held during the late-morning or afternoon.
White gloves are also a part of the formal tea attire. Instead of full satin gloves, net or crochet pairs are most appropriate. No matter what fabric you choose, a glove that goes beyond the wrist isn't formal tea attire and is highly discouraged. So be sure to keep them at the wrist.
Choose a hat for the occasion if the host says it is expected. Although it is formal tea attire, your particular social circle may not honor this aspect. A hat can be ornate in nature, but avoid raw straw as much as possible. Wide-brim hats are the normalcy.
While a hostess gift is optional, it can never hurt. Bringing your host a box of assorted, specialty teas or even coffee fits the bill perfectly.