What to wear for pub gardens, bbqs, picnics and outdoor restaurants this bank holiday weekend

Pub gardens and al fresco dining have been back on the menu since lockdown restrictions started easing across the country on April 12. The good news also means that picnics, barbecues and outdoor drinks (all with up to six people) are allowed again, so you’ll be wanting to make the most of the opportunity whenever the weather allows.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had plans we needed to get properly dressed for, but heading out for lunch or dinner now with up to five friends presents a fresh sartorial dilemma: since all of our dining will be done outdoors, we’ll need to look suitably stylish and warm. Rather than just throwing your tired winter coat on over any and every look, choosing wise outfit components means you can forgo a cumbersome coat altogether. 

Here are the pieces that you’ll need to nail al fresco dining this spring.

What to wear for al fresco dining

The dress with sleeves

A modest but summery frock that’ll keep your skin safe from the sun, and still nods to the spring theme is key. You’ll want a loose silhouette which is comfortable for sitting and standing, and a dress makes light work of tackling such a sartorial dilemma. 

If you haven’t got a sleeved dress in your arsenal yet, pop a grey T-shirt or white cotton shirt under a sleeveless dress for a similar effect. 

printed spring dresses

Aiyanna dress, £169, Ghost; Printed dress, £75, Omnes; Yumi floral dress, £50, John Lewis & Partners

The sensible flats

After a year of wearing nothing but slippers and trainers for the weekly shop, heels and wedges may be a little daunting so ease yourself in by opting for flats. If you’re heading to a park for a picnic or to a barbecue, stick to trainers or sporty chunky sandals for navigating grass, while those in the pub or at a restaurant might like to try ballet flats or coloured loafers.  

best spring shoes 

Metallic flats, £150, Essen; Tied espadrilles, £25.99, Stradivarius; Leather sandals, £135, Uterque; Canvas sneakers, £79.99, Good News x H&M

The nice top 

If you’re sporting blue jeans and white trainers but are keen to up the ante for this momentous occasion, a ‘nice’ top is the way to go. Think silk blouses, Victoriana tops, a printed shirt or an embroidered Prairie style that’ll make a statement and require little else.  

Even peeking out from under a jacket, a nice top is the stylish solution to al fresco table top dressing. 

best spring tops

Puff sleeve top, £65,  & Other Stories; Justine top, £95, Kitri; Rixo floral blouse, £165, Trilogy Stores

The wide-leg trousers

Picture the scene: you’re in a pub garden holding a glass of Rosè in one hand, and taking a lovely picture of your five friends on your phone with the other, when a gust of wind attempts to blow your floaty midi skirt right up, and you’ve no hands free. It’s for that reason that in unpredictable weather, we’d counsel you to choose trousers over a skirt. 

A wide-leg pair in a breezy fabric will give your look a spring feel. 

spring trousers 

Wide-leg trousers, £35, M&S; Jersey trousers, £245, Joseph; Linen trousers, £29.99, Zara

The warm but chic jacket

This layer will be your most valuable, particularly into the evening when the weather inevitably takes a turn. You won’t want to drag your giant winter coat along with you, but a lighter brighter alternative (especially one that can be packed up into a tote) will be a welcome addition to your look. 

This season’s It jacket – the woolly shacket – is perfect over a dress, while a classic trench or safari jacket will look great with trousers. 

best jackets for spring

Suede jacket, £398, Claudie Pierlot; Shacket, £24.99, H&M; Tweed jacket, £419, Sandro; Mango trench coat, £69.99, Zalando

The stylish extras 

Your accessories will make or break your al fresco look, so be sure to give them some extra thought. A blanket will be a saviour for sitting in the park or to wrap around your shoulders in the garden late at night. 

Don’t forget sunglasses and a hat which are needed for sitting outdoors for long periods of time, and a spacious but stylish tote to fit everything in is a must. 

what to take on picnics

Printed compact umbrella, £50, Liberty; Cotton hat, £65, Ganni; Tote bag, £80, Uterque; Serene sunglasses, £158, Viu; Printed throw, £90, National Trust; Gold-plated hoop earrings, £59, Astrid & Miyu 

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