Between the full-length evening hemline and the miniskirt lies the murky territory of the tea-length dress. Offering a modern flash of leg while maintaining an elegant and dignified silhouette, the tea-length dress has surged in popularity since the early part of the 20th century, when Emily Post described it as "a hybrid between a wrapper and a ball dress."
The Formal Definition
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a tea-length dress is one whose hemline falls "above the ankle and below the knee." Originally, the tea hem fell just above the ankle, but the modern tea-length dress is more likely to hit 3 to 4 inches above the ankle, in the mid-calf region. The tea-length hem can be contrasted with the cocktail dress, whose hem usually falls somewhere mid-thigh to just above the knee.
When to Wear a Tea-Length Dress
Tea-length dresses may be worn for any dressy daytime affair, from weddings and receptions to graduations to, yes, formal tea parties and fancy luncheons. Glamour also recommends the tea-length hem for any evening occasion, including proms -- the hem length is perfect to accommodate a night of dancing. Tea dresses are particularly suitable for outdoor occasions and events held during the summer.
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Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.