The Tea Dance has a long history in the UK – dating back decades. In the 20th century it was seen as the staple event of gentile society and very often an opportunity for ‘tween-agers’ to court under the eagle-eyed supervision of their governess.
During World War Two, however, the scene had changed. Tea dances and swing dances were a way to cut loose, to forget about austerity and to dance like crazy! With dances popping up in all kinds of venues, they featured live swing bands and plenty of energy.
Tea dances in the 1800s had perhaps been seen as the height of sophistication and wealth when it came to dressing for the occasion. But the war meant both women and men had to make the most of what they had using everyday items to create the effect they wanted.
Men’s fashion in the 1940s featured some amazingly HUGE trousers: wide legs, high waists, vests, and broad suit jackets. It’s worth noting that a 3 piece suit + 2 hours of Lindy Hop = sweat of Niagra falls proportion. So plan carefully when putting together your outfit!
The 1940’s wartime years were unique in that it was seen as a symbol of patriotism to be wearing your pre-war suit. Like women’s fashion, a shortage of fabric meant restrictions on ‘cuffs’ (turn-ups) pocket flaps… but strangely not high waists? Zoot suits were also popular with the younger crowd, but were seen as the antithesis of the war effort, and also a bit ‘Gangster’ but not in a ‘Snoop Dog’ kinda way.
Shirts were worn without vests (seen as an unnecessary waste of fabric) but you may want to swap your suit jacket for a vest if you plan to ramp up your moves at the dance!
Alternatively, braces were incredibly popular and could be worn with a shirt to save any overheating embarrassment. However, in our opinion, the very best part of the men’s outfit are the truly beautiful lace-up Oxfords with Argyle socks.
Go to town!
Show off your new digs at our Tea Dance fundraiser – Saturday 18 March. Find out more here >>>