The tea dress is back, shaking off its frumpy reputation to become the go-to dress of the season.
Traditionally, a tea dress was worn to a late afternoon or early evening event, typically with dancing, live music and where tea might be served. A classic tea dress would have a hemline length above the ankle and below the knee, although more modern styles allow above the knee.
But what is a tea dress anyway?
The term “tea length dress” doesn’t suggest a specific length, but this style of dress has a very distinctive look. Learn how to spot one and how to measure a tea length dress to get the skirt length just right.
Tea Length at a Glance
According to Glamour, Emily Post called this skirt length “tea length” because it was the type of skirt women wore to high tea in the 1920s. Even with this distinctive retro history, it’s a great skirt length for today. If you’re shopping and want to know if a skirt or dress is technically tea length, you can tell by using these tips:
- The bottom hem of a tea length dress hangs just about at mid-calf and sometimes slightly lower. When you try one on and look in the mirror, the hem should hang about halfway between your knees and your ankles according to Sew Guide.
- Tea length dresses are definitely longer than street length dresses. They are often A-line in style, but you can find fitted tea length skirts too.
- Beyond the general mid-calf length, there aren’t too many other “rules” that apply for this length and style. Necklines vary greatly, and there are scoop-necks, V-necks, and more. Sleeve lengths also vary from no sleeves to short sleeves to three-quarter sleeves.
How to Measure a Tea Length Dress
Because people have different heights and leg lengths, tea length dress won’t fit everyone perfectly right off the rack. If you need to make alterations or want to sew your own tea length gown, use this process to measure.
- Have the person who will wear the dress stand barefoot in front of you.
- Measure the height of the person from the floor to the top of the head.
- Consult this chart to find the appropriate tea length for that height. Measure for the full dress length from the hollow at the base of the throat to the desired location of the hem.
|Overall Height||Tea Length Dress Measurement|
|5′ 3″ or shorter||44″ from hollow of throat to hem of dress|
|5′ 3″ to 5′ 8″||46″ from hollow of throat to hem of dress|
|5′ 8″ or taller||49″ from hollow of throat to hem of dress|
Tea length dresses were a favorite during the golden age of Hollywood, so try one on if you want to feel like a retro starlet. Just keep in mind that this isn’t the most flattering length on its own, since it tends to give the illusion that the person wearing the dress is shorter than she really is. Experimenting with different heel heights and wearing an updo hairstyle can offset that effect and help you find a style in this length that works for your body type.