'Let’s do coffee' - it's something I say and hear countless times during the working week. So it was a welcome break, even for the sake of variety, to accept an invitation with fellow female blogger Sophie Milner for Champagne Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason as part of the Virgin Experience Days.
But what does one wear to Afternoon tea? Even the words 'afternoon tea' evoke quintessential English tradition and perhaps for some people their mind will gravitate towards classic or formal dress code. However, Fortnum’s do not enforce a dress code which is in keeping with the modern design of the tranquil and elegant Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. This gave me an opportunity to employ some contemporary pieces from my wardrobe to reflect the relaxed and refined atmosphere.
So what pieces fall under contemporary/smart-casual? How do we know whether we're under cooked or overdressed? I wasn't looking to reinvent the wheel of smart casual, but I did want to break away from the traditional stigmas. Here are some do's and don'ts I propose.
Do not wear a tie or jacket.
For me a blazer would be a bit archaic and a tie would seem too stiff. I'm not against a blazer per say for smart casual, but by wearing a jacket you run the gauntlet of adding all the accoutrements; pocket squares, cravats etc. The very concept of smart-casual is to make everything look effortless. The tie suggests formal, commands respect, it's far too serious for this level of informality. I top layered with an overcoat to avoid this.
Do wear a shirt
Wear a shirt. Shirts are my thing; I think you can't go wrong with a crisp button-down white shirt. An old saying goes: How does one sculpt an elephant? A. Take a large block of stone and remove everything that isn't an elephant. Likewise, if you stripped away everything that wasn't smart/casual you'd be left with a crisp white shirt. (And hopefully some trousers. I doubt Fortnum & Mason would appreciate you turning up in just a white shirt, you get my point).
Don't wear black brogues/toe caps
Wrong place, wrong time. If we all start wearing our black brogues to afternoon tea, then all bets are off. They'll have zero impact when you roll them out for black tie events. I did opt for black, but decided on black sneakers. Some places might be a bit sniffy about wearing trainers, but this is a relaxed setting and we're not in the 1930's. Make sure they're clean and not your running, hiking, painting or everyday trainers that you wear to the supermarket.
Do wear what makes you comfortable
This might sound obvious but afternoon tea is supposed to be a pleasant experience. Plus, you'll leave with your bellies full after a visit here. I was thankful I wore some relaxed black casual jean trousers as I certainly over indulged. They put on quite a display of traditional finger sandwiches; smoked salmon, honey roast ham with grain mustard and coronation chicken. Then the naughty stuff - fresh-made cakes, baked-on-site scones served with clotted cream and Fortnum’s preserves. When in Rome right?
There you have it. Do let me know what you think to my choice and if you what you like to wear to afternoon tea in the comment bar below. This was a wonderful experience, one that Sophie and I both relished. Head over to Fashion Slave for Sophie’s take on what to wear for afternoon tea.
This post was made in collaboration with Virgin Experience Days