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London boyfriend jeans with Carhartt T-shirt, Ray Ban mirrrored sunglasses, cage sandals and painted silk scarf

Picnics are romantic, but casual gatherings. They are often in the wild, aka nature. This ultimate guide addresses what is best to wear for a picnic with friends and family and which outfit mistakes to avoid. Read how to dress stylishly for a picnic.


  1. Go for Low Maintenance Chic When Dressing for a Picnic
  2. Pick Your Outfit Dependent on the Venue and Weather Forecast
  3. How to Create Photo-perfect Picnic Outfits
  4. Have a Cover-up – Just in Case
  5. Be aware of the potential hazards for your clothes
  6. Be Prepared for Spills
  7. What Not to Wear to a Picnic
  8. What Bag is Best for a Cookout Outside?
  9. Best Footwear for a Picnic
  10. Outfit Ideas to dress stylishly for a picnic
  11. Wrapping Up: The Does of a Perfect Picnic Look


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Go for Low Maintenance Chic When Dressing for a Picnic

What to wear to a picpic depends a little on whether your outfit has to go from work to picnic with the colleagues or whether you meet with friends and/or family. It also may vary whether it’s in Europe or in the USA, whether it’s in an urban park or in some recreation area. Last, but not least, whether there is an installed picnic setting or you and/or your friends bring your own equipment.

However, no matter what, some things remain the same.

At a picnic, you are munching on all kind of stuff that might drip onto your clothes. When a BBQ is involved add oil spots to the mix. Therefore, go for an outfit in fabrics that are low maintenance with respect cleaning. The fabric should also be breathable as you do not want to be soaked in sweat. Wrinkle-free cotton is a nice option.


Pick Your Outfit Dependent on the Venue and Weather Forecast

When there is a likelihood for rain, have a rain cape or coat in your bag or basket, just in case. When it is sunny or mostly sunny, sun protection is a Must. Pack sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Sun protection is especially important when the venue is at a lake, river or the beach. The water surface reflects the sunlight. Consequently, you get a sunburn faster than with no high reflective surfaces around.

Also be aware that staying in the shadow, just may give you some thermal comfort. However, being in the shade fails to rescue from sunburn.


How to Create Photo-Perfect Picnic Outfits

Your can wear a romantic style, floral, a countryside-inspired or a Coastal Grandma Style dress, jeans or a denim skirt with a button-down plaid shirt. Leather sandals, embellished thongs or clogs look great with all these options. Other great options are Bermuda shorts or capris with a girlie or floral top and ballet flats. Or go the gamine style way, and add a cap sleeve knit-top or a 3/4 sleeve striped top like Brigitte Bardot.



Have a Cover-up – Just in Case

On hot summer days, convective clouds may quickly turn into thunderstorms. After the storm passed, the air cools down due to evaporative cooling and cold downdrafts. Therefore, you should have a wind breaker or at least a cardigan handy for layering. A Chilly Jilly also works.


Be Aware of the Potential Hazards for Your Clothes

Warning! In Europe, most picnics are on blankets, meaning grass spots alert! At most picnics in the US, people use deck chairs. The advantage of using deck chairs is that you can wear something more fancy like a clean bias-cut, the traditional American white summer dress (that you can wash hot) or a 40s-inspired tea dress. The big disadvantage of deck chairs is that embellishments, crochet dresses, jackets or tops can get stacked on the metal of the folding chairs and end up ripped. Ouch!

Wood benches at a picnic place bear the same risk.


stripes and polka dot picnic look
Outfit details: The Limited striped T-shirt, Kieselstein Cord belt and belt buckle, Lauren Ralph Lauren pleated polka dot skirt, silk scarf, Juicy Couture cork sole sandals, Chanel bag, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and Ray Ban retro sunglasses



Be Prepared for Spills

Accidents happen. A juicy sandwich looses a bit of its dressing. Someone stumbles and spills the coke all over you. Or a kid gives you a hug with greasy fingers. You can add to this list.

Tip: To not spoil a (nearly) perfect afternoon have a stain remover like a Dryel dry cleaning pen ready in your picnic basket.



What Not to Wear to a Picnic

Stay away from cut-offs, short shorts, tight skirts/dresses and mini skirts. They all bear various different kinds of risks when sitting down on a blanket, grass, beach or a deck chair.  😉

Tip: When dressing for a picnic avoid everything short, or you may show more than you want, when you sit down on the lawn.


What Bag is Best for a Cookout Outside?

Great bag options for a picnic besides a basket are straw bags or fabric satchels. The bag should be large enough to hold sunglasses, wipes, sun cream, mosquito repellant, band aids, a tide stick or Dryel dry-clean pen in case of spills, and a jacket. More on DIY dry cleaning.


Best Footwear for a Picnic

Hot summer heat often leads to swollen feet. Therefore, flip flops, tongs, slides, trendy orthotic sandals or woven leather sandals are great because you can flip them off easily when you sit down.

Other great options are old school canvas sneakers. These are especially advantageous because they reduce the risk of injuring your ankles on uneven ground. When kids are around, you can make an impression with color changing sneakers.


Stylish Picnic Outfit Ideas

Here are some picnic suitable dresses that would look great on us 40 and beyond.


older woman dressed stylishly for a picnic in a jersey dress with purse and Keds
Zaful jersey dress, leggings, Keds, Notations cardigan, Hermes purse, and statement necklace


style blogger in a picnic in the park outfit with T-shirt, skirt and flats
Lauren Ralph Lauren polka dot pleated skirt, silk scarf, Ray Ban sunglasses, The Limited T-shirt, Hermes collier de chien bangle, and unbranded studded flats


fashion blogger summer outfit for an afternoon at a picnic table
A-line dress c/o Needham Lane, Ray Ban Jackie O. sunglasses, and Dr. Scholl sandals


casual preppy look with jeans, Keds and polo shirt for a cookout invitation
The Limited polo shirt with London boyfriend jeans, Keds, Constance bag, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, and sunglasses c/o ShopGlasses


over 50 years old woman in leather shorts and Hawaiian shirt for an outside party in the park
Oliveo leather shorts, LeatherCoatsEtc leather baseball cap, and Vintage Silk Hawaiian shirt


DIY skirt with t-shirt and scarf
College tee, suede belt, DIY skirt sewn from sari, Via Spiga sling backs, scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta, and Winkwood sunnies



Wrapping Up: The Dos of a Perfect Picnic Look

Riot your closet for an inexpensive, low care, cute dress or combination of separates in fabrics that doesn’t get easily caught up in chairs or other equipment. Pair it with matching flats to walk safely on bumpy lawns or paths. Have a cover-up for thermal comfort when it gets late, sun-cream, sunglasses and a hat to protect your skin and eye health. Most importantly have fun and relax. It’s summer time.

When you liked the outfit recipes of this post, and want recipes for all kind of dressing situation in midlife, buy my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.

What is your favorite go-to picnic look and why?

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Photos: G. Kramm

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