My sixteen year old daughter, Shelly, recently got a card in the mail with a picture of a beautiful English rose garden on the front. Inside was an elegantly written invitation requesting her presence at a sweet sixteen High Tea garden party for her friend Sandra. The location, date and time were written below as well as instructions to dress as a fashionable English lady of the 1880's.
Shelly got so exited that she went to the phone immediately and began chatting with some of her girlfriends. Then they all started calling each other, sharing different ideas for dresses, where to shop, what to make, what colors to wear, and so on. Shelly was busy for three weeks before the party researching styles of dress and Victorian manners.
All the girls had a lot of fun just getting ready for this party--it was like a pre-party. Everyday, one or two of the girls would come over to show us some of the things she had found and share them with us. Of course, dress modeling in front of the full-length mirror took place on a daily basis. The excitement grew the night before the party, when three of Shelly's girlfriends slept over. That way they could help each other with their costumes the afternoon of the party.
I put on the beautiful, Victorian dress with a matching wide brimmed hat I rented, invited a few of the girl's parents and our neighbors over for the evening. I pretended I was an emcee at a beauty pageant, announcing each girl with a hand held microphone and described each girl's outfit as she paraded around. The girls loved it and so did the audience. The adults applauded and chatted about each girls costume
After the fashion show the girls gossiped about what they had heard about the upcoming party and they were so excited, they couldn't sleep most of the night.
The next morning, they slept late, but I woke them a little before noon so they could start getting ready for the big day! First everyone had a bath and put on rose scented bath powder. After a quick breakfast, they started helping each other put on makeup. To be even more historically accurate, some of the girls put white powder on their faces making them look as pale as possible. All the girls helped each other tighten their corsets. They laced each other up so tight so they would have a tiny waist that was so fashionable in the Victorian Era. By 3:00 p.m. all the girls were dressed in fine Victorian gowns with a [3073:matching hat and parasol. The girls had decorated the hats themselves with silk, flowers, feathers and even a little fake dove adorned their hats. They all looked like they were going to tea at Buckingham Palace.
The girls kept running to the front window to check if the bus had arrived. They screamed with glee when they saw it coming down the street. The bus was a red, old-fashioned double-decker bus The driver parked beside the curb then came to the door and knocked. He gallantly escorted each "lady" from the doorway to the curb so they could have a group photos of them in front of the bus. After the driver took a few pictures he took one of their arms to helped them while they held their up their dresses and stepped daintily on to the bus.
The bus picked up all the girls, while songs by the "Beatles " and from "My Fair Lady" played. When the bus arrived the conductor escorted each of the girls off the bus one at a time and walked her into the garden party.
A young man in a white tuxedo was playing classical music on a keyboard at one end of the garden playing old fashioned and modern English songs. They strolled in twos and threes like Victorian ladies, glancing over their shoulders and chatting as they twirled their parasols and glided to greet the new arrivals. Most of the girls affected English accents, but since they didn't have a lot of practice they kept lapsing back into American accents or even Southern accents.
The waiters were dressed in Victorian tails and top hats and were Hugh Grant and Pierce Bronsnan look-alikes The girls loved their English accents and flirted with them.
Tables were set up on the lawn next to the flower garden. The tables were covered with white tablecloths and were set with fine white china with silver edges. Pale yellow napkins in the shape of swans, sat at each place setting. In the center of each table was a silver tea set, an old fashioned silver candelabra and white and yellow daisies in a crystal vase. The butlers brought silver trays of food to each table. There were open faced tea sandwiches of cream cheese and watercress or cucumber, scones, crumpets and tea cookies with jam and butter, chocolate dipped strawberries, canapés, perit fores and fruit tarts with clotted cream. The waiters kept the girls glasses filled with tea or lemonade. The Earl Gray tea was poured from silver tea servers. The girls chatted while they ate and had a great time.
As was the Victorian fashion, Sandra did not open her gifts, but invited all the girls to play a game of croquet. None of them had played before so the waiters came over and taught them the rules.
As a remembrance, the girls posed for group pictures in the garden with their croquet mallets. A few days later, each one received a framed photograph with a Thank You note from the hostess.
Just before dusk all the girls got back onto the double-decker bus and waved good by to Sandra and the waiters who had come out to see them off.