Dressed to a …

Jackie Kennedy had the art of dressing to the T/tea down, pic: fooyoh.com

T or tea??  I have used that expression myself before and never stopped and thought about how that T is written and what it means.  Looking into it now I found that both T and tea are being used and there seems to be no consensus as to which is the correct or original one and why that phrase is used.

But first things first, dressed to the T/tea means to be dressed very well, with attention to detail, so right down to the belt and shoes, jewelry and that little hankie men can put in the pockets of their jackets.

Those who believe that the word is “tea” claim that expression is British and since those guys like their tea and used to dress nicely to take High Tea in some fancy place the expression was derived from “dressed for a tea” or “dressed to go to a tea.”

The Oxford English Dictionary claims that T is an abbreviation of dressed “to a tittle” which was used in that sense as early as 1607 in Francis Beaumont’s play, The Woman-Hater.  Now tittle is another word not exactly used on a daily basis and means a small distinguishing mark, such as the dot on a lowercase i or j.  So dressed to the tittles would imply that everything is perfect down to the dots on the i.

After all of that I have decided to never use the expression in writing.

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