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As you help your little princess dress in her finery, you wonder when tea became associated with elegant, formal clothing and royalty. While Belle in Beauty and the Beast has a dancing tea cup and a motherly tea pot to hang out with, the other Disney princesses don't indulge in tea parties very often. Yet, you remember doing the same thing when you were a child, complete with elegant manners. Perhaps a look at the history of tea parties will help you realize how these celebrations became such dressy and elegant affairs.
When tea was first imported to Europe, the only people who could afford it were very wealthy. Tea was naturally consumed at fairly sophisticated events and at court. From this, the tradition of dressing up to drink tea with your guests was born.
Perhaps the tea party would have become a less formal event if not for the Edwardian and Victorian eras, but the middle class dream of dressing elegantly and enjoying upper class pursuits helped the practice of dressing up become thoroughly ingrained in both British and American cultures.
In today's casual world, tea parties are still a special event, partially because tea parties provide a chance for kids and grownups to indulge in a bit of dress up.