Summer and fashion! Nothing epitomizes summer more than a vintage-style floral tea dress. Easy to wear, versatile and flattering, this feminine dress is a hot summer look. Earl Grey, anyone?
With the onset of summer, everywhere you look there are tea dresses flooding the rails of the high-street shops. This most feminine of garments is elegant enough to take you from work to wedding, with just a change of shoes.
A tea dress is safe! Flowery and feminine, demure and chic! There is hardly any other dress which, “can honestly be said to suit (nearly) all women, (nearly) all the time,” says Hilary Alexander in the Telegraph’s article “Anyone for Tea Dress?”
Whether you are a waif-like teen or a generously-proportioned 40-something, the chances are you’ll find a tea dress that is both practical and flattering for your figure. Unleash the little girl in you, or high-society lady, taking afternoon tea on the lawn. Enter cucumber sandwiches and a pot of Earl Grey!
What is a Tea Dress?
It’s a feminine, girly and floaty dress that would look at home for high tea at the Ritz Hotel, or at a garden party. The dress is so called due to its aptness for being worn to afternoon tea or ladies’ lunches. Often brightly colored, it is a cute and feminine dress that can be worn to brunch, picnic, high-tea, a summer fete or bridal shower. Its elegance lies in the vintage styling and delicate prints.
The tea dress has weathered almost every runway trend. Immune to fashion, it has filtered down through the years as one of those oddities which has no specific meaning. The traditional floral tea dress is chiffonny and cinched at the waist. It can be worn with a slip and, in more traditional circles, a corsage. Collars can vary, from scoop necks to V-neck, Peter Pan to sweetheart. This year we see length variations, in addition to the classic cut, ending at the calf-muscle. Tea dresses 2008-style mean shorter-lengths and accentuated waists!Tea dresses were particularly popular with socialites in the UK, worn for the traditional “High Tea.” According to the article “It’s Time for Tea” by Dawn Copeman, on timetravel-Brtian.com; this tradition was first started in 1841 by Anna Maria Stanhope, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Up until the early 20th century, lunch was served at noon and dinner was at 8 or 9pm, so there was a desperate craving for calories around 4 or 5pm in the afternoon.
How to Wear a Tea Dress
For a more traditional dress look for feminine patterns, small buttons and a knee-length hem. In the heat you can go bare-legged or wear the sheerest of hosiery. For a very 2008 feel, wear a mini-length over leggings. In the fall and winter go for an edgy look with knitted tights or thick opaques, and a cashmere cardigan. Small floral prints are very “domestic,” so if you want to be more on-trend, go for larger, painterly florals.
Shoes should be elegant for summer, with sharp footwear similar to the Manolo or Jimmy Choo variety! However, they can be heavier and funkier for fall, especially if you are wearing them with thick tights. Tea dresses are best worn with heels if you don’t want to over do the little-girl look.
Tea Dresses for This Season
You can either go vintage by scouring thrift shops, garage sales and market stalls, or take advantage of this season’s new designs. Kate Moss for Top Shop features a Daisy Print Tea Dress, with the supermodel’s favorite flower and a girly Peter-Pan collar. Priced at £60, this modern take on a 40s classic works just as well for summer and fall.
The Heaven and Earth Ditsy Floral Tea Dress (£95) from Asos appears to be going down a storm on the internet blogs, due to its flattering blouson sleeves which cover a multitude of sins.
This dress looks really fashion-forward with a wide belt to cinch in the waist. Other tea dresses include a girlie 40s chiffon print (£28), and a red-hot jersey V-neck (£28) with sex appeal. Online retailer Asos has more than 30 reasonably-priced styles to choose from, so is a good starting point to give you an idea of what best reflects your personality and sense of style.
High-end designer, includes a Marc by Marc Jacobs, dotted print tea dress (originally priced at £275)
and a Phillip Lim Flutter Sleeve tea dress (originally priced at £315) — both from Net-A-Porter.
For the ladies-who-lunch, Saks has a striking, soft knit Temperley Afternoon Mini Dress (($1,195) currently available for pre-order, providing a respite from girly florals.