Thursday, 11 April 2013

Paisley, Lace and Teal for Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea on a Sunday with the girls is fast becoming a new tradition! Last weekend I accompanied a party of eight to celebrate a joint birthday party at the Soho's Secret Tea Room in Soho London. So secret in fact that when someone heard I was going there they asked me to let them know where it was if I found it as they completely failed to do so!

This was my afternoon tea outfit which was a last minute combination when I realised I was running very late and still had to get dressed.  It was one of those daft "I have nothing to wear" moments when faced with rails absolutely stuffed with clothes to choose from, a moment I'm glad to say I managed to overcome by pulling out two items I haven't worn in long time and mixing in a more recent purchase, this colourful, fitted wool paisley jacket which I had set my heart on wearing.  It was very much a "let's randomly fling these three or four things together and see if they work" process!

On consultation for his esteemed opinion Mr V expressed reservations about "all those different collars going on together".   It wasn't working for him.  I began to fret!  But I had pretty much run out of time by that point to change, and if I had it would have been exchanging a colourful jacket for a black one.  But I'm trying not to do that anymore right?  That's the whole point of this blog!  It was still cold but there was glorious sunshine and I wanted to wear some colour for a change.  So dressed like this I went.  A navy coat, a pink and blue paisley scarf and some gold studded burgundy heels to change into in my handbag and I was good to go.

This lace blouse and embroidered organza teal skirt have both been in my wardrobe for many, many years so it was nice to get them out again.  I've noticed recently that teal is back on the fashion world's radar as a colour de jour and the peplum on the blouse is very now too.  So there you go!  You know what they say about keeping clothes for long enough...

These are the same patterned tights I wore my friend's wedding last month which a lot of people commented on.  I'm hoping it keeps warming up here as after months of thick woollen opaque tights I'm ready to embrace feminine lacy tights like these every day!

Given Mr V's reaction I was a bit unsure of my ensemble, but when I arrived at tea I found it was a hit with the girls!  Just goes to show I should trust my own instincts more often.  It also illustrated an interesting point in how differently men and women can view an outfit.  I doubt most men would "get" this outfit but it turned out to be just right for a girly tea gathering in vintage styled tea rooms on a sunny spring afternoon.  Do we really dress for ourselves or do we dress for others?  Or is it a bit of both?  Who do we have in mind when we are getting dressed?  Men or women?  There is a theory often banded about that women are more likely to dress for other women as men are unlikely to be an appreciative audience for fashion.  I have to say from my own experiences I can see some truth in that and would be interested in what others think.

There are some women who admirably and adamantly live by the mantra of dressing for themselves.  As for myself, I'll admit that while I don't really need approval from my loved one to go out wearing something, I do prefer on the whole that he likes what I'm wearing.  It's natural to want the person you love to think you look nice isn't it?  But even if he isn't entirely convinced, I sometimes try it anyway and then feel sartorially vindicated when I get fashion high fives from the girlfriends!

As for the afternoon tea...this was my first time at Soho's Secret Tea Room.  It will also be my last.  Firstly when I arrived in the old dilapidated pub above which the tea house is located I asked the girl serving if there was a tea house there.  She regarded me snootily and asked if I had a reservation - it was as if I'd asked her if I could have a table at the Ritz!  Then she proceeded to studiously ignore me and serve people at the bar as if I wasn't standing there waiting for her to show me where to go.  Part of the secretive process I wondered?  Was there some secret hand signal I was supposed to be giving her that I didn't know about?  I finally just had to press her into telling me where I had to go as as my friends were all already up there, at which point she finally conceded and let me pass through and behind the bar to a stairway leading upstairs.

The tearoom is not large but it was very full and the staff seemed to be struggling to get orders on to the tables.  I ordered tea but it took ages to come and had to remind the girl I ordered it from to bring it over, by which time it was cold.  Our sandwiches and cakes were hardly brought promptly either but we had barely got through half of it when we were brought the bill and asked whether we wanted the rest packed up in boxes to take away.  It turned out they wanted their table back after a mere one and a half hours.  I hadn't even finished my first cup of tea.

This kind of thing happens often in London and it drives me nuts.  Even in some of the top restaurants where you pay a lot of money to eat, you have to eat within a one and a half hour shift so that the punters are churned through and profits are maximised.  Forget going out for a relaxing meal! The birthday girls insisted they were not told at the time of booking that this was explained to them otherwise they would have never booked the table.  Rather than a customer is always right stance, the waitress suggested in a rather passive aggressive manner that she would be sending over the manager (to kick us out no doubt).  

We managed to be belligerent enough to keep eating and drinking for a bit longer than we were perhaps welcome and unsurprisingly nobody wanted to pack up any leftovers to take home when we were again pressured to give up the table.  Poor service of the sort we received was enough to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth to wipe out any memory of how tasty the cakes might have been.  

After having had such wonderful afternoon tea at the British Museum earlier this year, where the price was pretty similar, where the staff were so sweet and obliging, where we could sit without being harassed to leave for as long as the tea room was open and leisurely eat the food that we had paid to eat, I have to say that Soho's Secret Tea Room experience fell completely flat on it's face in comparison.

The wonderful company and conversation of my friends however, was and will remain the most pleasant and memorable thing about the afternoon.  Happily, on finally being shoved out the door and having had our afternoon tea cut short, we extended the celebrations into ginger beers and cocktails at the lavishly decked out gay bar down the road!

I believe it falls to me to be organising the next afternoon tea (birthday coming up) so if any Londoners out there have a stellar suggestion for an afternoon tea experience that could compete with my current favourite at the British Museum then I'd love to hear from you!

And this week Bella of The Citizen Rosebud is hosting a favourite Shoe Shine Link up!  Right up my street!  Well I really have a hard time picking favourites but I do love these ones.  Head over to Bella's to see some shiny shoes!

Wool and Silk Velveteen Paisley Jacket: Carven; Lace blouse: Chine; Embroidiered Organza skirt: Karen Millen; Wool turtleneck: Cos; Tights: Max Mara; Burgundy Suede Shoes: D&G


  1. Haha, your hubby....what do men know?? ;)
    You are smokin' in your tea outfit! Exotic comes to mind!
    Hope you get better service on your next tea party.

  2. GREAT shoes, those hose are so killer and I just love all the different textures in this outfit!! Texture mixing is one of my favorite ways of keeping things interesting!!
    Becky :)

  3. I love your afternoon tea outfit. It's so much fun dressing up for tea be scones. Shame about time limit.

    SSG xxx

  4. That is too bad you had such lousy service for your afternoon out.

    On the bright side each piece of your outfit was stunning. You have such eclectic tastes. I love it.


  5. I do love your serendipitous ensemble. I don't think most men "get" style either. So sorry to hear the tea was a bust, but glad you all had a good time anyway. I've never had a bad time at a gay or drag bar.

  6. Yup! This is a heady outfit, not mean for the gents but a brain sizzle for the ladies. In theory, the mix of collars would work if I had you describe it to me- but something magical has happened: it just works. Clever use of color play and textures and layers. In short: Brilliant. Not to miss: the amazing textured tights and the high heeled shoes. Sigh.

  7. Oh my gosh, I love this outfit SO much! The textures are wonderful, that jacket is amazing (you ever get tired of it I will pay for the shipping over the pond to Canada!), and you look lovely.

    That's so unfortunate about the service! I often do afternoon drinks/luncheon with my gals, and we have not had that experience, but there are restaurants here that shoo you out as well. Not ones I patronize anymore!

    This post makes me want to organize a dress-up tea with my girlfriends. Thank you for the inspiration!

  8. I swore off teal, after the teal overload of my younger years, but I find myself falling for it again. This outfit is just such a wonderful combination of textures and colours.

    One thing I do not miss about living in London is the restaurant service. Mind, we were in grotty old Camden, and things were slightly more relaxed there, but it's like once we got out of our locals, they couldn't wait to push us out the door once they'd got our money.

  9. I am crazy for this gorgeous outfit, V! I did a little happy noise when I saw it. Everything just comes together, and it is all you.
    Sorry about the rotten service. I want to feel like a welcome guest, even if only because I am shelling out my $$$$.

  10. There's so much to love in your outfit - the richness of the colours, the delicate textures of the lace blouse and fancy tights and that glorious jacket, which I love! x

  11. Your random fling worked beautifully. I literally gasped when I saw this outfit. I adore everything about this outfit that I would never have thought to put together. Its just so beautiful; all of the colors and textures seem like they were made to be together. The most beautiful touch? The burgundy shoes...and the tights...and...oh just everything.

  12. I love that top, and layering the jacket over the delicate lace!

  13. What a beautiful outfit - very successfully flung together! All the patterns and colours and textures are gorgeous.
    Hmmm, I'm a dress for myself kinda gal. I have friends who no longer wear items their partners have said they don't like. I mean never, ever wear, when the women themselves like them really. I don't really get that. Luckily my other half knows better than to comment! Not that it would make nay difference, ha!
    I am shocked at your tale of such poor service. How rude! xxxx

  14. Your instincts were right. You look perfectly yummy. Really opulent fabrics, rich color and textures, referential and perfect for a special occasion tea party. (Or, what I imagine should be worn. What do I know?!)

    Yup, I care what the huz thinks about what I'm wearing, only to the extent that if he makes uncertain noises, I figure that if I can't defend my choice to him in clear, objective terms, then I may wish to rethink it. He knows what I mean when I ask if something "works" or not. And he often wants to know what I think. Nice for a guy to be interested in personal aesthetics (ahem.)

    More than dressing for men, or other women, or even just myself, I almost always think about the context or occasion before anything else. That almost always suggests something I'd like to wear. And some things I've bought for a specific occasion are among my favorite elements.

    Since we own and operate a tiny little pub-restaurant, I get it that servers get overwhelmed when it's very busy. It's usually me that's being overwhelmed. But we don't take reservations just to avoid customer experiences like you had. We are a destination spot, and most folks come some distance to find us. Strictly first-come-first serve and stay as long as needed. We don't have the kind of traffic (except for a couple of days a year) where "turning tables" is even much of an issue, or anything we even worry about. We have to care about the people who are there. Most folks come to us to stay for the bulk of the evening. We do slow food, and people know what to expect.

    I'd be lying through my antique-pearl-finish-teeth if I said I believe for a nano-second that "the customer is always right." Sometimes, the customer is an idiot or worse. BUT, the customer deserves to be spoiled rotten, anyway. So a reserved table + birthday tea should mean special treatment.
    Sorry that happened to you kids.
    A "secret" tea room? You had to enter via the bar-alley? Who thought that up, I wonder? Things must be VERY different in London.

  15. Great layering!
    The "tea time" photo is soooo cute! Now I feel really hungry:)

  16. I absolutely love the first image, it show such marvellous and intricate detail of your outfit. Rich in colour and fabrication. I should have known that Carven (jacket)... ahhh! The embellished shoes with the textured legwear takes it to a whole other level. :)

  17. I love that skirt :) Thank you for visiting

  18. la jupe est trop belle!

  19. I actually love the layering of dark high collar, the cream lace blouse, and the fitted, rich paisley jacket. It's romantic cavalier + modern badass...and you've given me some ideas for how to style a fitted brocade jacket I picked up at the thrift shop a few weeks ago.

    I'm often astonished by a business's poor service and attitude in today's age of easy internet reviews and communication with friends!

  20. Wow. Layering, textures....LOVE. That tapestry jacket is giving me palpitations.

  21. I adore that jacket and love how you pattern, colour and tecture mix! It's so sad when places just don't bother to try to keep customers! Glad you've got your fav afternoon tea place - it's one of most fav things too.

  22. Such a sweet scrumptious look you put together. Hmm shooing you out is ridiculous.I'm sure another place will be more considerate and want your business..

  23. Excellent layering of color and texture. Your jacket is gorgeous and shoes/tights are charming!

    blue hue wonderland

  24. What a splendid ensemble for your tea. I'm loving your pattern mixing and the lovely textures, tapistry with the lace is perfect. And, those amazing tights, WOW they just made this entire outfit. So lovely!

  25. I think it is true that women mostly dress up to impress other women, it is true about me no doubt. I love your afternoon tea outfit! The print of the jacket, the lacy blouse and the skirt - all together make great and impressive combination!

  26. Ravishing. That's what your ensemble looks like. Gloriously ravishingly rich. Like afternoon high tea should be. Here's to the next one. May it be as successful as your dressing!

  27. That skirt is to die for and I do love the jacket! How awful that you and your friends were treated so poorly at tea. I would've trashed the joint ;-P

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  28. I'm a bit behind on my commenting, and am thrilled to be greeted with this stunning outfit. I love the combination, and understand why your friends were enthralled too. I'm so in love with the tights that I'm tempted to track down something similar. And the shoe - gorgeous!

    Too bad about the service, but ending up at a bar for cocktails sounds like a fun way to end the afternoon.

  29. What a gorgeous outfit all around! When I saw the picture on Visible Monday I thought you were wearing the jacket with jeans, which would also look amazing. I love all the textures you have going on, and it creates such a rich appearance.

    I think men just get stuck with whatever they've heard in the past. My husband still says, "Blue and green must never be seen." Rubbish!

    If the British Museum has such a nice tea, are there some other heritage places that might have high teas? I'm always so impressed by any National Trust cafe and tea shop.

  30. I love this ensemble! Eclectic - which is something men don't usually get, particularly since it's difficult enough for most of them to match a t-shirt with jeans :) But it goes to show that when each piece is absolutely beautiful, putting them together can only mean success! Your new jacket is quite a standout piece. - J xx


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