I have some new students and they were asking last week what is appropriate to wear to okeiko? What is appropriate to wear to a chakai?
The short response is kimono is always appropriate to wear in the tea room. I almost always wear kimono, whether I am teaching, or receiving a bowl of tea in the tea room. If you have kimono and know how to dress, please wear kimono.
What if you do not have kimono? For women, a blouse and skirt or dresses are appropriate (not too short either, you will be sitting on the tatami). Slacks if you don't or won't wear a skirt. Long sleeves, please. For men, loose fitting slacks and button down shirt are appropriate for okeiko. No shorts, jeans, short sleeves, tank tops or sleeveless shirts.
Consider chakai, semi formal events. Kimono is always appropriate. Men in sportcoats and tie, women in long dress, skirt and blouse or jacket. Business attire is also appropriate. This is not the place to wear fleece jackets, jeans or even khakis. Definitely not track suits, sweat pants or even stretch pants or tights. Women please tie your hair up so it doesn't fall in your face or on the back of your neck. Take off your hats when you come inside.
The thing is, tea is not an informal event. Our lifestyles have become so casual nowadays, it is hard to know what is appropriate. Even the women's lacrosse team wore flip-flops to a Whitehouse reception. If you are wearing something that you normally wear around the house, or to run to the store, take it up a notch for okeiko and two notches for chakai. It is good training to recognize what is appropriate to the occasion and dress accordingly.
If you are dressing in kimono, that is another post.
Questions, comments? I'll answer them in the comments.