DRESSING FOR TEA
Guest Blog by Alison Appleton
Drinking tea is part of our ordinary, everyday life and routine.
We prepare our first cup as we stumble out of bed, bleary eyed and sporting our embarrassingly shabby and faded PJ bottoms. Our morning tea ritual consists of bashing a teabag into senseless submission against the side of the mug with a spoon before violently wringing it's neck.
Since the ninth century, the dress code has always mattered. It's part of the ritual: choose a delicious tea, savour delicate pastries and most of all, dress the part.
Like the finest couture, fine tea is a world away from the hastily brewed morning cup of tea. Fine teas even have enchanting names…
How could anyone resist the allure of Yunnan Black, Tie Gaun Yin Oolong, Gunpowder Moroccan Green & Mint, High Grown Ceylon and Rooibos & Peppermint.
In the early eighteenth century, fashionable ladies were still receiving social callers in bed. Tea and gossip would be enjoyed while the aristocratic lady of the house reclined elegantly among plumped up pillows, wearing a gown of the finest muslin, silk and lace.
A hundred years later, Marie Antoinette would entertain guests in her salon with a delightfully fragrant selection of teas including Jasmine and Rose. Her position as Queen gave her access to the very best Chinese teas, and she wouldn't serve them to anyone unless she knew she was wearing something fabulous. She may be famous for many things but she has forever associated tea with extravagant gowns and indulgent hedonism.
Tea eventually moved out of the bedroom and the formal garden became a popular place for taking tea, somewhere both guest and host could promenade in their finery. As men began to be seen in the tea gardens, the age of Regency manners, flirting and gossip began.
Jane Austen, herself an avid tea drinker, paints a striking picture of tea society in her novels. Women took tea in their finest, most sumptuous attire - walking gowns made from gold and silver, embroidered muslins, and cashmere shawls - in the hope of attracting admiring glances.
My own favourites were designed by Fortuny: fine folded silk dresses were the perfect attire to enjoy the finest teas. Hats and gloves were also worn - but whilst you might be permitted to remove the gloves to take tea, the hat very definitely stayed on!
Forward to the twenty-first century and happily, that time-honoured link between tea and the finest fashion houses endures. Last year's Dior pop-up tearoom in Harrods, the trend for fine tea and macaroons during Paris Fashion Week, the Louis Vuitton luxury tea trunk all say something about tea's continuing appeal
Mulberry's S/S campaign with Cara Delevingne, and styled by Edward Enninful, shows exquisite scenes from a tea party. Tea equipage and afternoon tea are laid out in a room lined with rose trellis. Cara and a menagerie of animal guests are draped around the scene. No-one could deny that tea and fashion make a perfect pairing.
Fashion loves tea and tea loves fashion: their cultures and histories are rich, inspiring and seductive. And we do still feel special when we dress up to enjoy tea - it's in our make-up. I love the idea that you can style the occasion, choose a dress to match your teapot or a teapot to match your dress!
So, bring the contrasting textures and patterns in fashion to the table, immerse yourself in the fanciful, enchanting world captured in a cup of fine tea.
Wear something special, enjoy the ritual and make Marie Antoinette proud!
With Love, Alison Appleton X