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Dressing for a barbecue is challenging. Nobody wants to risk ruining their best clothes! It’s no difference whether you plan having a relaxing summer evening with grilled food for your little family and/or friends or whether friends invited you. However, there are slight differences in what is best to wear for a BBQ when you are the host or guest. Read what you should wear to feel great about your look, but avoid a spill ruining the fun. Get inspired for creating you look for a cookout (invitation) to have the right outfit for the weather, venue and location.



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Grilling Requires Easy-to-Clean Clothes

Even though, the long Memorial Day weekend is the official start of summer and the grill season, many dedicated BBQers fire up their grill up to BBQ early. Who can blame them? You want to try out new recipes in a family setting first. When inviting friends or colleagues over for a BBQ dressing isn’t enough to make the party a nice memory.

For women following the Fashion Rules, the Memorial Weekend is also the official start of wearing white. White and BBQ is a bad idea.

Spill alert!


What to Wear When Grilling

When grilling and trying new recipes, all kinds of spills may happen. Just think splashes of fat from the grill, ketchup spots or spilling red wine.

Tip: Dip the red wine spot dry and add salt on top to mitigate the stain. Food and drink mishaps just happen, if kids are present and/or the setting is relaxed; or you try out new recipes.

Wear an apron. When you don’t mind, coated ones are best. However, you may sweat underneath.

Go for clothes in fabrics that you can wash. Therefore, forget about white unless you can wash it hot and bleach it. Be aware that bleaching yellows the clothes. Cotton clothes are best. Typically, you can wash them at higher temperatures, and you can dye these wardrobe favorites to look wow-worthy again, if needed.

Always apply sun cream, a hat and sunglasses when it is sunny outside. When you do the grilling, you may consider wearing slightly tinted sunglasses even when the sky is not clear or the Sun is not very bright. The glasses avoid fat going into your eyes.


front and back view of grill party guest outfit idea
Evening grill party guest look: Eddie Bauer top, unbranded neckerchief, Coolibar wrap skirt, Tommy Hilfiger sandals, pearl necklace c/o Wendy Mignot, watch c/o Nordgreen, bag c/o R. Riveter.



Great Looks to Wear at a BBQ over 40

Here are some great BBQ outfit ideas:

  • Linen drawstring pants, denim and khaki long pants or shorts with a cute T-shirt with a straw fedora or baseball cap. Old school fabric sneakers like Keds, Converse or Vans, and ballet flats, moccasins, driving shoes, flat sandals as well as  gladiators are great matches, especially, when your grill is on a lawn or in a park.
  • A cotton midi dress is a dressy light weight option. It looks awesome with a floppy hat, flat gladiators, espadrilles, ballet flats, embellished flip-flops, clogs, embellished sandals or thongs. Metallic, and tan are great colors for the footwear.
  • BBQing in the evening ask for a cover-up once the sun sets and radiative cooling starts. The above suggested outfits look great with a cardigan, utility or denim jacket. A stole is a great stylish option too.
  • Double denim with a denim skirt and shirt in different colors, old school sneakers, Birkenstocks or Greek sandals, a statement necklace, headband and a worn leather belt are a nice California Casual style option for a BBQ at a garden party. Add a leather baseball hat like Rihanna when you are not a fan of the headscarf look.
  • What about a denim dress with sneakers and a short pendant necklace? The look works with both a baseball cap and a straw hat.
  • Try a pair of jeans with a graphic T-shirt, medium length earrings, aviator sunglasses, a pendant gold or silver necklace and a pair of good flat strappy sandals or sneakers.
  • What about a trendy athleisure outfit in cotton with sneakers?



What to Wear at an Afternoon BBQ Invitation

If the BBQ invitation is in the afternoon, a hat and sunglasses are must-haves and should be part of your look. Let your outfit be the guide whether to go for a floppy sunhat, a baseball cap, or a straw fedora. the same applies for the style of your sunglasses. Aviators don’t look great with a Bohemian maxi dress, while cat eyes or round glasses do. You get the idea.

Denim and khaki long or as shorts with a cute T-shirt or cotton top are a no-brainer. Linen drawstring pants are a nice alternative to khakis and jeans. Pair these options with a straw fedora or baseball cap. Don’t turn your baseball cap backwards when your are 40+. It is not fun at our age. A cotton maxi dress or crochet dress are another light weight option. When you go for a dress, go for a floppy hat.


Left: Madden thongs, Hermes collier de chien bangle, gemstone cuff, straw hat (brand unknown), leave earrings, and maxi dress courtesy to Fashom. Right: Hermes collier de chien bangle, Very Fine sandals, leave earrings, layering shirt c/o Halftee, and jumper courtesy to Fashom.



How to Dress for an Evening Grill Party Invitation

If the BBQ is in the evening hours, have a cardigan, utility or denim jacket handy. When you are wearing a dress, a stole is a great stylish cover-up when it chills down after sunset. Make sure in your choice of your cover-up that it matches the vibe of your outfit.

Note that when rain is in the forecast, the grill will probably stay cold. In this case, grill parties at your friends’ are sort of dinner invitations so dressing for a dinner party is a good choice.

Pro tip: Accessories are a great option to add trendy fashion-selfie at last year’s party, you probably don’t recall what you wore anyhow.


three outfits ideas what to wear to a BBQ invitation
Left: Coolibar, Mouse & Cloud sandals, bag c/o R. Riveter. Middle: DIY skirt from 3 shirts, Chanel bag, Aigner sandals, Covered Perfectly top, Ray Ban sunglasses, watch c/o Nordgreen, Ann Klein scarf. Right: Coolibar cardigan and paisley print dress, Hipstik pantyhose, Coach bag, Winkwood sunglasses (similar wooden sunglasses), pointy-toe flat c/o Vivaia, and rose gold watch c/o Nordgreen.



What to Wear to a BBQ on a Lawn in a Park

When the BBQ is in a park, at a riverbank or a lake, you may also get outfit inspirations from what to wear at a picnic. On a lawn or on dirt, moccasins, clogs, espadrilles, ballet flats, embellished flip-flops, plateau sandals or flat sandals are your best options. Any heel would stick into the ground and get ruined. Plateau sandals may bear the risk of injury when your ankles are not strong and you step on some uneven terrain. Again think of the shoes as an accessory that has to match the vibe of your outfit. Clogs, embellished sandals or flip-flop look great with a Bohemian style maxi dress. Moccasins look great with linen drawstring pants or cutoffs.

Tip: Avoid plateau sandals or heels when a BBQ party is on a lawn or gravel. The former is a recipe for injury, the latter for ruining your shoes.


collage showing what is best to wear for a BBQ with friends in a park
Left: Liz Claiborne denim dress (shortened), statement belt, Great Northwest suede utility jacket, structured bag, Michael Kors patent leather wedges, Ray Ban sunglasses. This look is great for an early evening BBQ invitation that foresees to stay for drinks after eating. Wear the jacket once it chills down after sunset. Keep it off when eating. Right: Oliveo leather shorts, Carhartt gingham button-down shirt, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, straw hat, Ray Ban sunglasses, and Michael Kors sandals.



What to Wear at a Family BBQ in Your Yard

Here are photos of BBQ outfit suggestions for grilling with your kids and spouse. Enjoy your stay-at-home BBQ in style.


collage of best outfits for grilling with your family in your yard
Best looks for grilling with family: Left: What to wear to an outdoor party at night. Karl Jäger dress, GNW cardigan, Hermes collier de chien bangle, 3.1 Philip Lim tote, statement belt, Ray Ban sunglasses, and nude Juicy Couture sandals. Middle: Family BBQ on the balcony. Oliveo jeans, coin belt, Great Northwest shirt, Paloma Picasso sunglasses, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and Madonna True or Dare pointy toes. Right: Cute BBQ outfit  with leopard print cotton leggings c/o No nonsense with own printed T-shirt, Great Northwest denim jacket, and Keds polka dot print sneakers.



Tip: Avoid leggings and tops made from synthetics. They burn easily. And little hot particles often occur when you use charcoal.


potluck grill outfit inspiration with pants, tunic and baseball cap
Spring-Step sandals, LeatherCoats’Etc baseball cap, bead necklace, sunglasses c/o SUNGAIT, trousers c/o WHBM, sun-safe tunic c/o Coolibar, and Bellorita designer bags.


Wrapping Up What to Wear for a BBQ

Except for a posh backyard BBQ, you are seldom wrong with a clean good-fitting dark-wash pair of jeans, a high quality clean T-shirt, medium length earrings, statement sunglasses, a pendant gold or silver necklace and a pair of good flat strappy sandals or sneakers.

To keep the (family) peace in case a spillage happens, go for clothes that are low maintenance with respect to care. You don’t have to impress when you are just the little family (you, your spouse and your kids), but you just want to look great for yourself. A small family circle BBQ is about testing new recipes and having a relaxing family time, right? You are not dressing for a dinner at your friends or colleagues house.


Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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