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What to Wear to High Tea – From Modern to Traditional

There are very few activities that make the everyday person feel like royalty, but high tea is certainly one of them. High teas are often held in opulent venues complete with fine china and elegant decor, all of which add to the luxurious ambience of the occasion.

Most of us won’t find ourselves at a high tea on any old weekend; it’s generally considered a special activity reserved for important occasions such as Mother’s Day, bridal showers, baby showers, and birthdays.

So, if you’re not a regular high tea-goer, you may be wondering what to wear to your event. Do you need to find a ball gown and tiara, or will your everyday jeans suffice? Generally, high tea attire falls somewhere between these two extremes. Here, we explain what to wear to high tea depending on the season and the occasion.

What is a High Tea?

Oddly enough, high tea
technically isn’t what we’ve all been led to believe it is.

When we say high tea, you’re likely picturing white tablecloths, scones, dainty cups of tea, sandwiches, and cakes. These elements are actually hallmarks of afternoon tea, which is served around 2 to 3pm.

The concept of high tea actually stems from 19th century Britain. It refers to a meal eaten around 6pm — a light supper of sorts, served with tea — which includes a more extensive and hearty range of dishes such as cold meats, vegetables, tarts, pies, bread, and cakes.

So, why the name high tea? The first theory is that the word ‘high’ is associated with nobility and the upper classes (traditionally, only these groups were fortunate enough to indulge in scones, jam, and cream in the middle of the day).

The second, less charming theory, actually just comes down to chairs. Yep, chairs. Historically, afternoon tea was generally served on low comfortable chairs indoors or in the garden, while the post-work high tea was served at the dining table on high-backed dining chairs.

So, somewhere along the line, the wires got crossed. Now, what is more accurately known as afternoon tea is now referred to as high tea.

Given we’ve all become so accustomed to calling the occasion high tea, we’re going to stick with that throughout this article.

Plus, high tea just sounds better.

High Tea Dress Codes

There’s no specific dress code applied to all high teas in general, but there are some unwritten rules when it comes to picking your outfit.

Firstly, workwear and clubbing attire is out of the mix. Slowly back away from the black pencil skirt and bodycon mini dress…

High tea calls for something a little more refined. If we had to pick a dress code that best suits high tea, we’d go with smart casual.

High Tea Outfits: By Season

The first way to approach high tea styling is to consider the season.

The weather can help to guide your choices in terms of silhouette, colour palette, accessories, and design features.

Autumn and Winter High Tea Outfits

Unsure what to wear to a high tea in winter? We’ve got you covered. In cooler seasons, earthy and jewel tones are ideal. Emerald green, navy, dark-based florals, and wine hues are the key colours to work with during autumn and winter.

As for silhouettes, opt for something with sleeves. Not only will they keep you cosy and comfortable, but they also exude understated elegance and sophistication. For a modern high tea look in winter, go for a silky wrap dress. Silk is to winter as linen is to summer.Here are our favourite picks.  

Pasduchas Composure Midi Dress

The Pasduchas Composure Midi Dress exudes sophistication and elegance. This dress features a draped neckline which is very comfortable and makes the dress a super modest piece. The dress gives an extremely flattering silhouette and will leave you feeling super confident! If you're needing a simple yet elegant cocktail dress, this one is for you. Suitable for all ages, you cannot go wrong with this classic style.

This style is available in a midi in colours. navy, wine and charcoal.

Pasduchas Pinnacle Sleeve Midi Dress

The Pasduchas Pinnacle Sleeve Midi Dress is a modest, long sleeve mid-length dress that is suitable for occasions such as autumn garden parties or high tea events. This dress is very comfortable which is all that you want for an event in the cooler seasons. This combat green is the perfect Autumn colour that perfectly complements the earthy tones of the cooler seasons.

Acler Palms Dress

The Acler Palms Dress is crafted from a luxurious pleated fabric. The pleating, bell sleeves, plunging neckline and asymmetrical hemline, creates a flattering silhouette. This style will keep you warm for day time events on those cooler days, and is perfect for a more sophisticated event such as a high tea party.

This style is available in colours turmeric, pink and sky blue.

Spring and Summer High Tea Outfits

As the weather warms, swap out dark-based florals and jewel tones for bright colours and prints. Look to pink, orange, and violet hues for a warmer feel.

Rebecca Vallance Catania Mini Dress

The Rebecca Vallance Catania Mini Dress is made from a linen blend and features a floral print, puff sleeves, side pockets and an open back. This mini dress is perfect for the spring/summer season as it is easy to wear and makes the perfect outdoor dress. Wear this number to your high tea party event with heels to make it semi-formal or sandals to tone it down.


Rebecca Vallance Montez Midi Dress

The Rebecca Vallance Montez Midi Dress is an elegant one shoulder style made from a structured crepe material. This dress has a flattering slim silhouette and features a dramatic statement bow on the shoulder. This gorgeous dress is suited to all ages and is extremely comfortable which is all you want for a summer outfit. Experiment with your style with this stunning statement pink that is perfect for the spring/summer seasons.

Zimmermann Aliane Ruffle Midi Dress

The Zimmermann Aliane Ruffle Midi Dress is crafted from linen and cotton. The dress features a self tie bow detail at the front and ruffled trimming alongside the shoulders, leading to a racerback with cut-out details. In the warm orange colour, this dress is perfect for a summer event. We love this linen fabric as it adds a sense of luxury, making it perfect for a high tea event.

High Tea Outfits: By Occasion

Now that we’ve shared some seasonal outfit recommendations, we’ll take a look at event-specific options. 

High Tea Bridal Shower

Firstly, if you’re the bride to be — you’ve got all the freedom! Step into a traditional bride-in-white themed outfit, a white mini or midi dress - the choice is yours! Here are our favourite bridal party themed outfits.

House Of CB Lulu Drape Midi Corset Dress

The House of CB Lulu Drape Midi Corset Dress is a beautiful one shoulder corset dress in a beautiful duchess satin. This dress is the perfect style for cocktail events, as it is elegant and meets semi-formal attire. Corset dresses are also super trendy at the moment so why not jump on the trend while you have the chance!

This style is available in pistachio green and white.

Rebecca Vallance Calla V-Wire Midi Dress

The Rebecca Vallance Calla V Wire Midi Dress is crafted in an Ivory/White crepe fabric. This dress embodies femininity and style that exudes elegance. Featuring an A-line silhouette and wide supportive straps, this dress is made for comfort which is all you want in a cocktail outfit. We love this style for bridal parties as a classic style that will not take away from your big day wedding dress.

Nookie Adore Two Way Dress

The Nookie Adore Two Way Dress is a gorgeous mini dress that exudes luxury and elegance. This showstopping dress is made for that iconic moment - perfect for a bridal party where everyone is celebrating you. This dress features a structured bodice and removable bow. A fun and flirty, yet sophisticated style, making it perfect for a high tea bridal party event.


This style is available in white and teal.

High Tea Baby Shower

Mums-to-be, you need a bump friendly dress that will have you feeling comfortable sitting, eating and drinking at high tea.
Guests — dark colours are a no-go. For a high tea baby shower, opt for a bold block colour or vibrant print.

Zimmermann Jude Scallop Dress

The Zimmermann Jude Scallop Dress offers a sophisticated summer look. The dress features a boned bodice, waist cut outs, side seam pockets and embroided scalloped edging throughout. An easy to wear and comfortable style, we know you will love this style. In a gorgeous floral print, this dress is perfect for daytime events such as high tea. This gorgeous dress can easily be dressed up for formal occasions or dressed down for more casual day events.


Alemais Dana Midi Dress

The Alemais Dana Midi Dress in marigold is a classic midi dress that is crafted from a luxurious fabric with a sublte shine. This gorgeous dress features a tailored bodice and adjustable back tie. The voluminous skirt adds a timeless elegance. We think this style is perfect for cocktail events and will have you feeling comfortable for a baby shower held over high tea. Elevate your look with this stunning piece.

High Tea Birthday Lunch

At your own high tea birthday lunch, you have permission to go all out. You need a dress that screams birthday girl, and we have got you covered.

Nookie Nouveau Midi Dress

The Nookie Nouveau Midi Dress is a stunning midi dress. This dress features a square neckline with pearl detailing along the bust and straps. A super comfortable and easy to wear style that is made from a form fitting scuba crepe material. A classic and modern look that is perfect for any event, especially a cocktail party. Add a little wow to your next event with this gorgeous midi dress.


This style is available in black and nude.

Aje Gracious Cut Out Dress

The Aje Gracious Cut Out Dress is a stunning mini that exudes exudes elegance and femininity. This dress features a frill skirt and voluminous shoulders which are offset by a cut-out and back tie. In a beautiful bright orange, this dress makes the perfect summer high tea outfit for a birthday event. Pair this gorgeous mini dress with some sandals or wedge heels to elevate the look.

Aje Myriad Cut Out Mini Dress

The Aje Myriad Cut Out Mini Dress is the perfect summer dress to wear for a smart-casual event. The puff sleeves, intricate ruching detail and voluminous skirt make this unique style a statement piece, that perfectly complements a high tea event. This dress screams birthday girl, so step out of your comfort zone with this gorgeous mini dress to have all eyes on you.

Find Your Fit

Now you’re across what to wear to a high tea, it’s time to start browsing.

At Dress For A Night, we believe everyone should be able to wear beautiful designer pieces, but we know they carry a weighty price tag. That’s why we work with a hire-and-return model; you can hire each of the pieces mentioned above for a fraction of the retail price. You’ll save money and wardrobe space, and you’re also making a more environmentally-sound choice.

Have a question for us? We’re all ears! Contact us with any and all hiring and styling questions.


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