A modern take on high tea

I feel like high tea suddenly became A Thing about 10 years ago, and since then I’ve had many an opportunity to eat small food and drink tea (or champagne) with friends. This weekend past my friend Aimee very kindly treated me to high tea at Martha’s Pantry, and it caused me to reflect on how our attitudes to high tea have evolved.

Whereas high tea was once an opportunity to put on your best approximation of a 1950s tea dress and pearls, perhaps with a hat or a fancy headband, on this particular Saturday both Aimee and I turned up in jeans.   It was pretty clear to me that by the time you hit your 30s, the days of wearing what essentially amounts to a costume out to high tea are behind you. 

I tried to hit a tone of “this is a special treat” without going overboard.  In my book that means one of two things – a dress worn with boots and some kind of a casual jacket, or a pair of jeans worn with a fancy top and some dressy-ish shoes.  On this particular Saturday we were on the receiving end of a polar blast, so jeans were a must have – option two it was!

This outfit actually started with the shoe.  These chartreuse wonders were a wonderful $4.99, and since the RRP sticker on the bottom tells me they were £149, I feel like I got a wee bargain there.  While this colour works fine with navy, the contrast against red makes it much stronger, so I knew I wanted my red coat in the mix.  With the shoes, coat and jeans sorted, it was just a matter of picking a top that would bring it all together

I frigging hate the concept of “wardrobe must haves” but I do think that a brightly coloured top in a nice fabric (this one’s silk) goes a long way for things like this. Dressed up with black cigarette trousers, a high heel and some statement earrings, this would be appropriate for a dinner party.  If I’d opted for a pair of Chucks or loafers, a leather jacket and a chunky scarf, I could have run errands or hung out with friends at the zoo.  I love all the contrasting prints, since it gives me lots of options for mixing and matching.  

The florals are a nice nod to the girliness inherent in high tea – after all, there are flowers on the table, on the crockery, and even on or in the food!  I think the casual nature of jeans and the colourful, slightly blocky shoes took the saccharine out of the ensemble though, and made it a little bit cooler (or at least as cool as I was ever likely to make it).

High tea, by the way, is still a strong crowd pleaser.  I ate a club sandwich with corned beef in it that was like heaven in two bites, and scones with jam and cream have enjoyed a long popularity because they are just that good.  Plus, you get to drink fancy tea that you wouldn’t necessarily buy an entire box of for your home, and use your fancy manners that are wasted on the hum drum of everyday life.  


Ed note: My impression is that lots of people avoid buying silk because they think it will be difficult to look after – that is nonsense.  It’s not 1908, so embrace silk!  I wash silk on a cold delicate setting on a short wash with liquid detergent, gently shake it out and hang it immediately, and try to steam it before it’s fully dry.  For more expensive silk items I will use a drycleaner instead, but since those are special occasion items it’s not a huge cost.  Natural fibres close to the skin is always a bit nicer.