Fashion: The garden party

Pixie Lott (left) and Fearne Cotton during a garden party to mark The Prince's trust's 40th anniversary at Buckingham Palace in London. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Pixie Lott (left) and Fearne Cotton during a garden party to mark The Prince's trust's 40th anniversary at Buckingham Palace in London. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
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From royal garden parties to summer barbecues, Stephanie Smith has advice on dressing for fun at this season’s outdoor parties.

Perhaps we have been inspired by this year’s Shakespeare season, celebrating 400 years since the bard’s death? Or maybe we are reflecting the circus shenanigans surrounding the Brexit referendum? Or possibly, we are still gleefully marking what we perceive to be an end to years and years of austerity? Whatever, there is a distinct carnival atmosphere pervading fashion for this summer’s outdoor special events.

Salvador top, �129; Salvador skirt, �129. From Hobbs.

Salvador top, �129; Salvador skirt, �129. From Hobbs.

It’s all the fun of the fair, so roll up, roll up. Brightly patterned jumpsuits and all-in-ones epitomise the sort of look to aim for, notwithstanding their challenges. In practical terms, they are best saved for events that are certain to have proper indoor toilets, not just shack, shed, cabin or plastic Tardis style facilities.

But, for a garden party with bathrooms provided, a slim leg jumpsuit in a bold colour or striking pattern is the elegant way to bring a Harlequin-esque note to any proceedings. With heels and a clutch bag, there’s nothing more contemporary and statement-like, and they work for most shapes, sizes and heights. There are plenty of all-in-ones about on the High Street with wrap-style tops, ans these are flattering and seem to work well with heels and, if it’s sunny or the occasion requires it, a wide-brimmed sun hat. Actually, a word of caution here, regarding headgear and jumpsuits – steer clear of small fascinators because the balance is all wrong and usually looks quite odd, as if you are taking part in some avant-garde and arty production of a Shakespeare comedy. Although if that’s the look you’re going for...

But what about über-dressy, ultra-classy outdoor special events? If you know anyone who has ever been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, you will understand the agonising and self-doubt that often surrounds the selection of a suitable outfit.

As ever, it’s always a good idea to learn from the best. If you want to stand out and be seen, take a leaf from the Queen herself and wear an outfit in a fabric of one saturated colour.

Mix and match floral separates on the catwalk from the Diane von Furstenberg Spring 2016 collection. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Mix and match floral separates on the catwalk from the Diane von Furstenberg Spring 2016 collection. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The shade can be bright, bold or pastel, but it must be intense and vivid, and not part of a pattern of different shades, because one single block of colour is much easier to pick out in a crowd.

It’s a tip that radio and TV presenter Fearne Cotton followed when she chose a striking orange lace dress to wear to a garden party given last week by Prince Charles to mark the 40th anniversary of the Prince’s Trust.

She’s pictured here with Pixie Lott, who is wearing a floral embroidered maxi dress. This boho earthly paradise style of outfit is ideal for smaller garden parties and outdoor events, where the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, with only the usual suspects falling over their high heels in an attempt to impress.

Artistic takes on floral print, perhaps monochrome or bold and splashy, or both, offer an eye-catching and contemporary way to wear flowers.

White dress, �17; sandals, �16; jewellery, from �1.50. All from a selection at Primark.

White dress, �17; sandals, �16; jewellery, from �1.50. All from a selection at Primark.

The look featured here from Hobbs, teaming a black-and-white print with the same in red and white, is a striking idea that can be experimented with, and it also works with busier floral prints, as with Diane Von Furstenberg’s separates.

White is a massive trend for this summer’s all-day events, especially bohemian, floaty, romantic looks in white lace, light cottons and chiffons.

I say again, as I always do, do not for one moment think that you can get away with white for a wedding at which you are not the intended bride. It’s confusing for guests and disrespectful to the bride, even if she is on her ninth marriage and has chosen to wear scarlet. Just don’t. If it’s not a wedding, knock yourself out – there are some simply beautiful white dresses on the High Street.

Label Lab whipstich detail crossbody bag, �50, at House of Fraser.

Label Lab whipstich detail crossbody bag, �50, at House of Fraser.

Stripe jumpsuit, �48; clutch, �15; heels, �55. All at River Island.

Stripe jumpsuit, �48; clutch, �15; heels, �55. All at River Island.

19 August 2017......  Sarah Yates in period costume at the vintage fair at Lotherton Hall.  Picture Tony Johnson.

Vintage fair at Lotherton Hall draws colourful crowd for weekend of events