Holly Willoughby knows when she's onto a good thing. Her love of the humble and extremely flattering tea dress has brought to our attention just how many high street versions there are right now - with loads on sale too!
The best thing about tea dresses is that no matter whether you’re tall, petite, curvy, busty or athletic, we guarantee there’s a tea dress that suits you. The nipped in waist, V-neck, empire line and fluttering sleeves are flattering regardless of your shape and size.
Second best is cost per wear. Tea dresses can easily slot into your wardrobe, regardless of the season. Wear in summer with sandals or backless mules, pair with ankle boots and a biker for autumn, and come winter just add tights and a chunky knit.
There are so many high street versions available and depending on your legs, you can chose from short, midi or maxi versions. Remember you want the hemline to hit a relatively small part of your leg. Most tea dresses have capped or ruched sleeves that are perfect for hiding upper arms. Dresses with a ruched center are also suprisingly slimming.
It may seem counter-intuitive that gathered folds of fabric are slimming, but the ruching draws the eye toward the center of the body, or toward a narrow part of the body.
As the shape is so classic and feminine, you can go a bit wild on the print. Pretty florals are traditional but we love bold florals, a mismatched print and coloured leopard print versions too.
So why is it called a tea dress? In the mid 1800s, ladies would dress in a lightweight, unstructured gown (originally as as tea gowns) that fell between the knee and ankle to host or attend a private tea party.
In the 1930s, as pockets were pinched by the economic decline, clothes that could be worn for multiple activities began to emerge. While one would not wear one’s house dress out to run errands, ‘Day’ dresses were marketed as perfect for a day full of different activities. Day dresses could be worn “from a shopping tour or business, to an important luncheon, tea, or matinee date,” or for “bridge with the girls, dinner, church on Sunday, or an informal evening.”
These Day dresses had “wide shoulders, slim fitted waists, swinging lines", hence the ‘tea dress' that we (and Holly) all know and love was born.
Here's our edit of the 10 best tea dresses for all figures. Happy shopping!
Tea Floral Red Empire Dress, £15, Studio.co.uk
A cheap and cheerful option.
Animal Print Tea Dress, £10.50, Kaleidoscope
Wrap styles are most flattering for very large busts.
Flattering Floral Dress, £45, Joe Browns
Longer arm style for more coverage.
Blue Vanilla Mint Green Floral Tea Dress, £22, New look
Similar to Holly's Ghost dress.
PETITE Ditsy Floral Waisted Midi Dress, £39.50, M&S
Perfect for petites!
French Connection Esi Crinkle Floral Print Midi Tea Dress, £67.50, John Lewis & Partners
Great for leg slimming- the sheer panel disguises knee's and calves.
Oasis Merci Floral Patched Midi Dress, £55, Simply Be
Best for plus sizes.
Selena Print Vintage Tea Dress, £69 (was £125), Kitri
Slimming print and flattering puff sleeves.
Betty Floral Tea Dress, £42, Monsoon
Perfect for plus sizes.
Brianna Dress, £69.30 (was £99), Ghost
Holly's go-to brand has a great sale!
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